The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Experiences

Reading experiences of other people affected by their parent’s drinking helps you to know you are not alone.

Hearing how other people felt as children and as adults can help us make sense of our own experiences. Whilst every family is unique, many families affected by alcohol problems face similar issues.

There are lots of personal stories in the followings sections. Why not try reading a few and perhaps come back another time to read some more? Remember you can always talk to Nacoa about what’s going on for you and your feelings and memories.

You may also find it cathartic to write about your own experiences. If you would like to contribute your experience for others to read, please email Hilary Henriques.

Feeling different from other people and guessing what normal is

+- My dad’s alcoholism took a turn for the worse when I was 7 years old (Tara)

My mum had just filed for divorce and was admitted into hospital with serious mental health problems. From there, myself and my brothers went through the endless cycle of my dad being completely drunk and taking our dinner money for a few months, to being completely alcohol free for a few months. He and my mum stayed together but had a very volatile relationship and because she had her own issues, there wasn’t a lot of stability or support coming from her either.

My dad died when I was 14. He was alone, in his flat and his organs basically gave up. At the time of his death, we hadn’t spoken for a while and it really affected me that we’d never been able to make up. For a number of years it really affected my relationship choices as I’d not had any good examples of how men should behave.
I’ve never had any issues with alcohol myself, as I would never let myself become my father. Unfortunately my mum now also has a pretty serious alcohol problem too, so the cycle has been never ending.

Thankfully I came through the other side and I’m married to a lovely man with a great career. I wanted to share my story so other people know that just because you’ve had an alcoholic parent, doesn’t mean you’re destined to go down that path and you can make something great of your life.

Tara

+- One year ago this week, my Dad died peacefully in his hospice bed (Joe)

I was standing right next to him at the time, trying to comfort him during his last few breaths. Somehow, I found that I still loved him, although how this could possibly be the case after all that he had done, all that he had put me through was totally beyond me.

The truth was that, up until the age of about 13 years old, he had been my hero. I had idolised him. He had given me a passion for life, for sport, for so many other exciting childhood things and with it, I had grown a belief that I could do anything I wanted to do in life. I remember feeling really proud of him and all that he stood for. He was everything I ever wanted to be.

My very innocent life was suddenly turned upside down when unexpectedly my parents announced that they were separating. Within what seemed like only days, my Dad (my hero) had vanished too, into the depths of alcoholism, of isolation and of self-pity.

In place of my Dad there was now an imposter. This man looked the same as my Dad and sounded the same as my Dad, but he had lost any inkling of interest in me. His sole interest from that point onwards was in drowning his sorrows in endless bottles of whisky. He would start (without exception) from the moment he arrived home from work and he would continue through to the point of black-out, pretty much every night. I would often wake up and find him collapsed in front of the TV in his armchair. I would often try to wake him up, but wouldn’t be able to do so – I guess this must have been quite frightening for me at the time…..

The feelings of pride I had for him were very quickly replaced with (what I realise now were) overpowering emotions of fear, of shame, of guilt, of humiliation, of pain and of loneliness.

His alcoholism felt so personal to me and so public. Living in a small village, I imagined that the whole world were all gossiping about my Dad, and worse still, about me. It felt like everything that was happening was my fault. It was as if I shared responsibility for his addiction and I felt all of those incredibly harmful, negative emotions that he must have been experiencing, as he gradually lost all control of his life.

I remember thinking to myself that it was time to grow up and take responsibility. I suppose that I actually went into survival mode as that helped me to protect myself against any further hurt. I’m not sure how consciously this choice was made, or whether it was just through instinct, however I’m pretty sure that I knew that I had to change to be able to cope with what had suddenly become a much more difficult, more serious and much less innocent life.

I remember at the time often being told that I was “very mature for my age” (by friends’ parents etc). In a strange sort of way, I would feel really proud of myself for this. I wasn’t a child anymore and could look after myself. I was obviously behaving in the right way.

I soon started to lose interest in all the passions I had had before, in all the exciting hobbies and activities Dad had previously encouraged me to pursue. Instead, I would choose less healthy and more grown up things to do.

I remember feeling very different from my school friends as I seemed to have more freedom than they had and was able to do more of what I wanted to do, without any apparent repercussions. I would be scared to invite my friends back to my home, as I would never know what state Dad may be in. The fact was that Dad was so pre-occupied with his own self-pity and bottles of whisky that he wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about what I was up to.

As I grew older, I would remind myself all the time that I wasn’t the same as everyone else. Gradually, this began to affect my friendships and relationships. I found it hard to trust others and so I felt that I could only really rely on myself. The truth was that I would subconsciously push people away when they became too close, through fear of being hurt.

I would still go to ridiculous lengths however to protect this unrecognisable, alcoholic man who lived in our house from the outside world. I would tell everyone that everything was absolutely fine and that Dad was actually very well. It was always so much easier to lie than to be truthful about how incredibly difficult and frightening things really were.

I learnt not to talk, not to trust and not to feel.

In later life, and as Dad’s alcoholism got progressively worse, I found it easier to distance myself more and more from my Dad and not to have any form of communication with him. If the truth be told, I would always feel so much guilt for losing contact with him and such a weight of responsibility for him, despite my disgust and hatred for what he had become.

On many occasions I would visit him – having had no contact for several months or even longer – unsure as to whether I would find him still alive, whether he would have committed suicide or just passed away in a pool of his own vomit. He became a complete recluse and seemed to enjoy his isolation.

Meanwhile, I had grown up to become very independent, to have a beautiful wife and three wonderful young daughters of my own. Together with a good job and a lovely home, to all outward appearances, I led a reasonably successful and happy life.

The truth was however, that at the age of 42 years old, as my Dad was finally losing his fight to alcoholism (and his cancer), I realised that I no longer recognised nor liked myself. I had well and truly lost my true-self and I was equally concerned that my methods of coping with life were leading me in the wrong direction.

During my earlier years and in my determination to protect myself from further hurt and pain, I had learnt to control everything to cope with life. This would include both things within my power to control and things I had no right or power to control. I never thought for a minute that I was acting unhealthily (I guess I was still in survival mode) as this was just what I had done all of my life and I knew no other way.

I learned an incredible knack for being able to dismiss my own feelings in favour of trying to make everything alright for everyone else, avoiding any sort of conflict, anger, hurt or pain.

In my own mind, I wanted to make everything alright for other people so that they would like me. More often than not, I was actually diverting my attention from my own feelings onto something much more worthy, much more tangible, but belonging to someone else.

My life had become unmanageable. I was taking on so much and trying to control so much that I had started to drop all of the balls I was juggling. I had stuffed away all my feelings for over 30 years and these were now surfacing. I had no idea of how to cope with them. My self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem had hit rock-bottom. I was in need of help.

Since my Dad passed away and over the past 12 months, I have gone into recovery. I have rediscovered myself with the help of NACOA and 12-Step Fellowships such as ACA & CoDA and I feel I have regained my identity.

Until recently, I had absolutely no idea that there were other people in similar positions to me, who were willing to talk about their experiences, their feelings and their truths so openly and honestly, and best of all, to support each other without judgement.

My life is now unrecognisable from where I was a year ago. I am gradually learning new and healthy behaviours. As a good friend of mine says, it’s like “learning a new language”.

With three small daughters, I am really excited to learn about how I can help them to be open, to talk, trust and feel in their own ways. I am really hopeful that this will allow them to cope healthily with the challenges which life throws at them in future.

My recovery is providing me with a sense of self-worth and self-love which I can honestly say that I have not felt before.

I have also learned gradually to let go of those negative emotions and in turn, this has allowed me to make peace with my Dad.

Actually, if it weren’t for his alcoholism, I wouldn’t be the person I am now…….so for that Dad, I am grateful

…Rest easy my hero x

#coaisathing

+- My awareness of my father’s drinking may not have been from the very beginning but I remember enough. (Jo)

It is interesting to think back at it all now as an adult child of an alcoholic and someone that has come out the other side and let me reassure you that there is another side.

The main things I can remember about my dad’s drinking was that I was probably around 8 years old and I began to understand that dad didn’t really play a big part in our lives, when I say “our lives” I mean my mum and my older sister’s life. My younger sister came along 9 years later so she had a very different view of my dad and ultimately a different life.

My older sister and I would help my mum around the house a lot, mum had 2 or 3 jobs plus being a mum to my sister and I. At the time I just remember feeling angry because I didn’t want to be responsible and I didn’t want to have to do chores, I wanted to be out with my friends and have fun. The jobs and helping out just seemed to be all the time, or at least that is how I remember it, but my mum needed our help because dad wasn’t around much. The positive I can take from it all is that I learnt a lot of valuable skills that have helped me in my life now.

Living in an alcoholic home is what was normal to me, I didn’t know any different. My dad had ups and downs and sometimes he managed to kick the habit without any help from Alcoholics Anonymous or the doctor. The other times he didn’t do so well, he would spend a lot of his time sat in his car in the driveway, listening to the radio and drinking. I found it so embarrassing and people would ask what he was doing, my friends that lived nearby would say “why does your dad always sit in his car”, and as a child that was humiliating but I kept his secret and never said anything about the drinking. It is interesting how you learn to be creative with the truth, you have to learn to keep it a secret and to not tell other people because ultimately we were afraid.

My dad was aggressive when he drank, he would chase us around the kitchen table and we used to stand in a certain place so we kept enough distance between us and him. We weren’t always quick enough and he would hit us round the head or legs. Dad would always get really angry and then calm down and talk and then get angry again. His behaviour was so unpredictable you never knew what mood he would be in or how he was going to react. This in turn had a negative impact on me growing up because I became quite anxious, but I didn’t know that was what it was. I have to admit it wasn’t until a few years ago I realised I had anxiety, obviously I knew a little bit about how I felt but I didn’t label it.

The household was like dad at times, like Jekyll and Hyde, one minute he was really nice and the next minute not so much. The house could be like that too but of course that was connected to his mood a lot of the time. As an adult child of an alcoholic I can reflect back now and see the damage that was done but I am not totally convinced I appreciate just how much and how bad it was.

I don’t know why my dad started the drinking and I will never know now because sadly he passed away 2 months to the day before my 21st birthday, my younger sister was 11 years old. Dad was riddled with alcoholism and his body just couldn’t survive it anymore. He had been sectioned a few times and I remember him experiencing quite bad hallucinations, I remember him not recognising his own children (my older sister and I) when we were leaving the house to go and stay with my grandparents, I was so scared.
My dad was also quite abusive and he would touch our bodies, he once locked the lounge door and made us watch a pornographic movie and other times he would say he wanted to check on our development and make us take our clothes off. It sounds awful now as I write this but that is the reality of it, it may be hard to hear for some because it may sound horrific and disturbing but to me I don’t know any different. As an adult I can absolutely see that it was completely inappropriate but I am not sure I totally see the scale of it.
We did have the social services involved at various times but as is quite normal in an alcoholic home you don’t discuss anything, so we kept his secret and the drinking continued and we continued to live in fear of him. Unfortunately the damage of alcoholism is wide spread, it affects the money in the family – a lot of the time my dad would spend the mortgage money on drink and so that put a massive pressure on my mum to find it in time for the bank to make their withdrawal. It affects the atmosphere, it affects the relationships, the trust and so much more.

Now I am older I have learnt more about alcoholism and I decided to attend a local Al-Anon meeting a few years ago and I have to say it changed my life. I felt like a fraud attending because I was no longer living with an alcoholic and surely I shouldn’t go because that was for people that are in that situation now. I experienced this years and years ago so I felt attending so many years later was a bit of a waste of time, how wrong I was. I felt so accepted when I went there and this was the turning point in my life, I felt totally understood and I felt like there were others like me, that I am “not mad”. The relief I felt was immense and something I am forever grateful for.

My biggest learning from this experience has been that alcoholism affects not just the drinker but everyone they are connected to, particularly the immediate family. In order for us as a family to cope with the situation we had to develop our own coping strategies. I learnt to be on hyper alert so I could prepare for the unknown, I became obsessed with being in control of everything so it would limit damage and reduce problems, I did spend a lot of time on my own, I wanted to fix the problems, I blamed myself and I learnt I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions.

I was very good at getting angry and being brutally honest but as an adult I have learnt that isn’t the way and that I need to address this. It is still something I find very hard to do because it makes me vulnerable and it isn’t natural to me to do but with years of therapy and support things have turned around and I am able to say when I feel hurt or upset rather than just tell someone they annoyed me and not how it made me feel. It is tough because in my mind I felt it made me weak and that wasn’t something I could afford to be in an alcoholic home if I wanted to survive.

I was a scared child with no voice, no one listened to me. I had to do as I was told and I had no one to help me, to explain what was going on, to really understand where I was coming from.

I spoke to someone recently and she said “of all the people I treat, people that are children of alcoholics or had some connection to alcoholism are the most damaged”. I had to learn ways to cope and as a child they were perfect or at least helped me at the time, but as an adult they no longer serve me in a positive way so I have had to and continue to learn how to find new ways of being.

There is hope, but it is a long journey and one that can’t be rushed.

Jo

+- I’ve Struggled Today (Tracey)

I’ve struggled today
The light’s not been quite right
My eyelids felt heavy
And the room looked so bright

I’ve struggled today
To move far from this spot
I’ve a temperature, I’m sure
Oh so cold, then too hot

I’ve struggled today
There’s something going round
Maybe flu is a-brewing
Don’t you worry, I’m sound!

I’ve just struggled today
To find get up and go
Perhaps I’m doing too much
I should learn to say no

You’d have struggled today
If you’d been in my head
All the words rolled around
Could you be me instead?

Not forever, temporarily
’Til I get back on track
’Cos I’ve struggled today
And the kids are due back

They’ll say, “Mum, have you moved?”
I’ll say, “Course, I’ve been busy!”
I spun around doing nothing
’Til it made me feel dizzy

I’ve struggled today
And I’ll struggle tonight
Must I really cook dinner?
Cheese on toast is all right

I must peg the washing out
It’s been sat there for days
I can smell it’s gone musty
God, I’ve struggled today

I’m not even sure if I’ve been for a wee
I did boil the kettle, had two cups of tea
I’m not drowning my sorrows, that’s just not for me!
But I’ve struggled today to do much more than breathe…

Oh woman, snap out of it!
Everything’s falling apart
As I struggle to mend
My bruised and battered heart

No…

For now I’ll do sitting
Having quiet ‘me’ time
’Cos I’ve struggled today
Tomorrow, I’ll be just fine

Tracey

+- This year it will be 20 years since she passed away and the saying goes, time does heal. I have learned to cope. But I do feel robbed of having my mum and wish that she was here. (Marian)

To the outside world my family appeared perfect. A young couple, two children, nice house etc. However, a dark cloud was forming over us. Somethings I didn’t like, didn’t understand and wanted to go away. This cloud was my mums growing dependence on alcohol.

It was a gradual thing and I have vague memories of arguments, people trying to help, staying with relatives and looking after my younger brother when my dad wasn’t there. I would have been no older than 12 by this time. Throughout all this time my mum did try and look after us. Family and her friends have told me that she adored my brother and me. This “dark cloud” was stronger than anyone realised.

When I saw my friends’ families, they seemed so different to mine and they didn’t seem to deal with what I had to. They seemed “normal” and I felt very confused and to be honest alone. Also, I had lots of questions, for example “Why wasn’t my family like theirs? What made it harder was that I was told that I wasn’t allowed to talk about what was happening to those outwith my family. So I kept all my thoughts and feelings in. Looking back, a fear of judgment probably played a major part in this

When my mum was stopped for drink-driving, was when things really began to deteriorate. My parents separated and my brother and I went to live my grandparents. It was all meant to be a temporary situation but when my dad met someone else, my brother and I decided to stay with them.

My family had broken beyond repair and again, we couldn’t talk really about it. Friends did question me, but I made excuses and didn’t let them know. My mums drinking really went into a downward spiral. Yes, she did try, went into treatment centres and I had the hope that “things would change and get better” So I learned to try and cope with whatever happened. However, we have all said now on reflection, leaving a place to go home alone and not have a husband, children, it would have taken a considerable amount of strength to overcome this.

None of us know why she drank; people have put forward many reasons as to why. To hear them does upset me to be honest, knowing that she carried something that was difficult to deal with and this made her find something to block it out. Something that took her away from us.

I will never ever forget the last conversations we had. During a particularly difficult situation she turned to me and said that she didn’t like me seeing her like this. Her appearance was changing, it was obvious that something was wrong. Also, the person she was living with wasn’t a nice person. I reassured her and said, it doesn’t matter, you are my mum.

The very last time we spoke was just after my first holiday with friends, we talked for ages and I remember feeling so happy. We laughed and talked about all sorts of things. I said that I would come and see her the next day. I remember it was a Tuesday. She asked me to come on Wednesday. I never questioned this. This was something we had grown used too. She would sometimes change when to see people. On the Wednesday, my dad came to see us and told my brother and I she was gone, she had passed away early in the morning. I remember standing and looking at him and not questioning him. I just knew. The pain I felt, it was something that I had never felt before. There were so many difficult things that followed, and during this my family tried to look after my brother and me. On reflection again, they have said they wish things had been different. I am though very thankful for my grandmothers, for all the love, support, and all they did for my brother and me. Who knows where we would have ended up without them?

This year it will be 20 years since she passed away and the saying, time does heal. I have learned to cope. But I do feel robbed of having my mum and wish that she was here. Life has been very difficult over the last month. I can talk to family and friends but to have her also – I would love!

Being involved with Nacoa and meeting so many lovely people along the way, some of whom have experiences the same as me, has changed me and I am so happy to be a part of something that gives people like me a safe place to be heard. It was a chance reading of an article and taking a chance which has helped me find answers to questions, understand more about what happened and the confidence to talk.

Marian

+- ‘If he loved you enough he’d stop’ (Josh)

It’s a sentence that’s been with me most of my life, one that I’ve argued against, through belief it just isn’t true, but sometimes just because I don’t want to believe it.
My names Josh and my dad was an alcoholic and died when I was about 8.
Telling my story is difficult, not because I find it upsetting, but because my memory is so patchy, at times non-existent, and sometimes pretty untrustworthy. I often question in my head if I have fabricated a memory or even made it up from scratch!
What I do remember is how I felt as I came into my teenage years. I felt I was different. I had no trouble making friends but found it almost impossible to connect with them on any level.
Like the world took place on the other side of a clear screen while I watched, but didn’t really take part. Confidence didn’t really seem a problem but it was only masking a terribly low opinion of myself.
Life itself scared me and I was always angry. My anger came out in all sorts of ways. I often thought everyone else was crazy, that they were blind to the real world and that’s why they managed happiness in life and I didn’t.
I was confused by life, like nothing was enough and life was hard. I tried to think about my dad and was often filled with guilt at the fact I didn’t remember much, but I still cried a lot. Only when I was alone, so no one knew. I never knew why though. I knew somewhere in me I was sad, but I learned to bury it, everyone experienced tough times and you just had to get on with it.
That became my logic. I didn’t speak to anyone, I didn’t know who I could, I thought people would be disgusted with me and me being ok kept my mum happy so I felt I couldn’t turn to her, even though we were close.
I began to seek release. I found that most easily in drink. By 18 drink was causing problems in my life. I needed it to cope with everything, from love to hate, and happiness to sadness. I started having children, and that statement was back, ‘if he loved them enough he’d stop’. But I couldn’t. The denial I had for the way I felt about my dad’s alcoholism was deep routed and perhaps even stronger in my own drinking. The world was the problem not me.
Today I have recovery. I haven’t had a drink for nearly 4 years and live an amazing life with my wife and I’ll be 29 this year, thanks to a whole bunch of different reasons, some that I don’t even know or understand, but not least because I’ve began to accept and address the way I’ve felt and feel.
Talking has always been the first step to solving any of the ways I feel. The most surprising thing to me is just how many people think and feel exactly as I do and how it is all so closely linked to being a COA. If alcoholism was simply a case of loving enough I don’t think alcoholism would exist. I consider myself lucky today, and that in itself is a dream.

Josh

+- My name is Mandeep. I am 38-years-old and my father was an alcoholic (Mandeep)

My earliest memories were of my father drinking. I remember one of the dreams I had when I was five. I had three daddies. ‘Nice daddy’, ‘funny daddy’ who was just slightly drunk, and then of course ‘nasty daddy’. That is what it was like. You never had any stability, any security, any normality.

Dad was an intelligent man but also an incredibly intimidating and violent man. He and my mother had an arranged marriage in 1975 and divorce was never an option, even when she was battered and bruised, even when she had black eyes and wore sunglasses during the day, even when she was hospitalised after he threw a plate of steaming hot food over her stomach as he didn’t like the way she had cooked it, even when he smashed her head open with a wine bottle and the blood was smeared over every single wall in the house, even when he kicked her in the stomach when she was 8 months pregnant.

No, divorce was not an option because she did not want to bring shame to her family.

If ever we dared to get in the way we became the targets. God knows how many times neighbours called the police. God only knows what the social services thought of us.

I never had any friends. I never went to a birthday party. Nobody invited us anywhere. I couldn’t ride a bike. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t do any of the normal things that kids do. I thought that I was a freak. My father became more controlling, almost psychopathic, as we got older, not allowing us any contact with the outside world apart from school. We were not allowed any freedom at all. I don’t know if that was the alcohol talking or whether that was just his personality.

I don’t know how but he managed to get a car, despite being unemployed. He would drive it with us in the back. He was completely off his face. We had no seatbelts and were terrified. He never got caught.

However, because my father was an intelligent man my school never found out. He would always wear a suit and tie and be ever so charming to our teachers. He would chew cardamom pods too, a trick that many Asians use to cover up the smell of alcohol on their breath.

Luckily his children were intelligent too. I excelled at my school work and became a straight A student. However, my father made me give up my education when I was 16 so that I could get a job. He took my wages and spent them on drink. However, I didn’t give up. I did my A-levels through distance learning. I secretly went back to my school, having confided in my form tutor, who would give me AA leaflets and also let me borrow A-level text books. I would sneak them under my coat and then secretly read them at home so that I could pass my exams.

I hated him. Every night I would pray to god that he would die.

A year before my father’s death when I was 17 he visited the doctor who told him he had to stop drinking otherwise he would die. My father denied that he drank, as he always did. He came home and just said ‘So what? Everyone has to die one day.’ A year later I sat by his bedside in the intensive care unit as he succumbed to alcoholic liver disease.

I felt that a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Unfortunately it took my family a while to adapt to life without him, to change their ways. My mother had lived under his shadow for so long. He had left us penniless and she was scared.

I asked her if I could go to university the following year and she said no. However, I made the toughest decision of my life because I knew it was the right thing to do. I continued working and saved up a load of cash. I passed my A-levels, got my university place, packed two suitcases, called a friend and left home. My mother was devastated but after three days we were talking again and we are best friends now.

I thought that life was ok but it was only last year that I realised it wasn’t really. I have always felt different, always felt left out, always felt lonely and depressed. I couldn’t understand why. I have a wonderful job, two beautiful children, the world is mine for the taking, but I still feel sad a lot of the time. It was only when I did research that I realised what I feel is normal. The legacy of a parent’s drinking does affect you for the rest of your life. However, just because you have a parent who drinks it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. It really doesn’t matter where you’re from. You are as special as everyone else on this planet and it is where you are heading to that counts. Life will get better, I promise.

Mandeep

+- For me, growing up with an alcoholic (single) mother meant never feeling safe.

It meant lying awake at night, from the age of 9, so I could check all the doors and windows were closed and locked, constantly feeling unsafe.

It meant never knowing whether she would be ‘normal’ and loving or raging at us, throwing things and attacking us physically.  I felt responsible for my younger siblings, always trying to protect and shield them. It meant dreading weekends at home with her, dreading visits to ‘friends’ and the drive home with a scarily drunken person behind the wheel.

I was never able to trust the adults who let things like that happen, who knew it was going on but gave her alcohol and then watched her stagger into a car with three children and drive 20 km or more.

I spent my childhood covering up for her and pretending things were fine when everybody knew they weren’t, but nobody said anything.

I lied to my friends, never having them round, never telling them the truth, always worried that I would be found out and judged (at 45 I have still never told my closest friends and am still covering up, at the same time craving honesty and the courage to let it out).

It meant me growing up to be a person who always has to be in control and who struggles to feel normal around alcohol. Someone who has a superficial relationship with her mother – who is hard to trust and still drinks. The hardest part now is trying (and often failing) to accept that she has chosen her path and is unlikely to change and watching her destroy herself, slowly but surely.

 Keira

+- I vowed, even as early as eight or nine, that I would never ever inflict this kind of torture – of being a child of an alcoholic parent – on a child myself (Jackie)

My dad was in India when I was born; it was the end of World War II and I didn’t meet him until I was about eighteen months. My memories of my childhood are intermittent. But certain memories are vivid. And they scarred me for ever.

To this day, I am convinced that those nights, where I lay in my tiny damp bedroom in our cramped little flat, waiting for the dreaded key in the door when my dad would return from the pub, made such a terrible and powerful impression on me that I truly believe I vowed, even as early as eight or nine, that I would never ever inflict this kind of torture — of being a child of an alcoholic parent — on a child myself — nor would I even venture into marriage. And it’s true. In later years, I became pregnant more than once and had many partners or boyfriends. But I never had children or a permanent partner.

At 64, I am still haunted by those childhood memories of my father’s drinking. I never knew what mood my dad would be in, would he be shouting at my mum — who withstood my father’s drunkenness with an awesome level of tolerance — or would he be happy, promising me to take me on outings on his days off — promises which were forgotten along with the hangover the next
day. When you let a small child down that way, something is lost forever. Trust never really comes back. My father was frequently verbally abusive, though I never saw him hit my mum. He did hit me as a small child, but as I grew older, the violence would be threatening — using hideous language which still has the power to make me recoil — but he didn’t carry out the
threats. But the damage on a sensitive, only child had been done.

As a schoolchild, I dreaded events where parents could attend. If my dad came, he’d be drunk, sing loudly and make a fool of himself. I didn’t want him there, didn’t want to be different to everyone else — what child does?
As soon as I was old enough to, I’d avoid all family gatherings where he’d be the only one of his siblings to be drunk and noisy. Everyone accepted that my dad was The Drinker, his dad was one too and their ‘down the pub’ way of life was largely accepted, it was what men did back then.

My mother is such a kind, loving and tolerant person, she never really understood that my own personality was tainted for ever by my environment. My dad was unbelievably possessive about both of us, behaving outrageously when I started going out with boys. On one occasion, I came down the road late with a new boyfriend. He stood there, fuming — and slapped my face. When boys would ring and ask for me, he’d sometimes slam the phone down. I think my teenage years were awful for my mum as she’d try to mediate between us.
I have never ever forgiven myself for my behaviour towards her as a teenager. I’d slam doors, break things, scream, rant rave in frustration. Yes, typical teenage behaviour. But oh so painful that you never forget it.

Yet like my father, I am emotional, lively, outgoing — and with an explosive temper. And so, just like my father, as a way of escaping my background and dealing with everyday life, as I grew up and went to work as a secretary, I became a drinker in my early twenties. For years, the pubs,
the booze and casual flings with men dominated my social life. I found working environments where drinking was a way of life, like Fleet Street. By the time I’d reached my early thirties I was a very heavy social drinker with a reputation for promiscuity and outrageous behaviour.

But I was lucky. I met many Australians in Fleet Street and, encouraged by a group of Aussie friends, I made my way to Sydney, partly on impulse, mainly as a real escape from my drunken dad and that awful flat.

By now, he had poor health as a consequence of his drinking. Being on the other side of the world liberated me, an adventure I embraced wholeheartedly — I had nothing to lose. My dad, whom I struggled to accept loved me very much, now seemed to have an obsession that something terrible would happen to me: in my first years there he’d see stories about some terrible accident in Sydney, then start ringing my friends in London, utterly convinced I’d
been killed in a train crash or some disaster.

How glad I was to be so far away from him and his drinking. And how rotten it must have been for my mum, putting up with him in that wretched, cramped East End flat. Yet thousands of miles away in the sunshine, my own drinking was gradually getting out of hand. After a few years away, I’d returned to London for a long visit. I dreaded seeing my dad, so much so that I stayed
in a friend’s flat in central London for over a week before I could bring myself to visit my parents. They lived just a couple of miles away. Emotionally, I still wanted us to be thousands of miles apart. And how I hated their flat, their environment.

I returned to Sydney after nine months. The last time I saw my dad he laughed and waved as I drove off with a friend, back to a bright, sunny life in an optimistic place where I’d started a career as a writer. Two years later, my mother rang me to tell me my dad was dead at 68. It is
a terrible thing to say but after the call I realised that at last we were free. The odd thing was, in the last couple of years of his life, he’d stopped drinking and wrote letters saying: ‘how I wish I’d never been a drinker’

These letters imprinted themselves in my brain, so much so that when I started to realise that my drinking was now problem drinking and sought help from a counsellor, I understood that, in a way, the letters were a message. After talking to the counsellor, who explained the progressive nature of alcoholism, that my drinking was alcoholic and that there was only one cure: i.e. total abstention, it all fell into place. My granddad had handed the drinking gene down to my dad, who, in turn, had handed it down to me. I wasn’t going to hand it down to anyone because I didn’t have or want children. But it was going to stop. I had a new career as a writer and I saw, clearly, how drinking might jeopardise that. The drink had to go if I was to pursue that career, a dream I’d never dared to dream before – but one which was fast becoming a reality.

And yes, I stopped drinking completely. I have never had a drink – or been tempted to drink at all — since that day back in 1982. Your life doesn’t become perfect overnight without alcohol and like everyone, I’ve had my highs and lows. But I can now look back on a very exciting career in
magazines and newspapers, work which took me everywhere, a way of life that many would envy and a niche in the world which, back in the mid-seventies, you’d never have envisaged for a girl like me, uneducated — and from a home with an alcoholic parent.

I returned to live and work in London many years ago and my mother is now in her nineties and in a care home. She never understood my drink problem — she never saw the worst of it anyway — and she found another partner after my dad, a kind and generous man who didn’t drink and had survived a concentration camp in WWII. So she too found a different, happier way of life later on.

I understand now that my dad drank out of a mixture of fear, frustration, shyness and a kind of desperation that I understand all too well — if the sober world is too hard to face, you let the drink wash over you and blot it out. After all, it was culturally acceptable. In a way, I can forgive the alcoholic behaviour that scarred me so deeply. Even now, I still remember the dreams I’d have as a child, waking up in that tiny bedroom screaming ‘leave me alone’. I still don’t want to dig too deep to find out what that was all about.

But, in truth, I got what I wanted. I am now alone for most of the time. I don’t like it. But it’s a sober alone. And nothing in the world would propel me towards that first alcoholic drink again…..

Jackie Harris

+- I feel like every pothole of my ACOA journey was worth it when I see my incredible girls grow (Janice)

I am a 46 year old recovering ACOA and I have to say that going to the AA meetings at an early age (Al-anon, Al-teen) saved my life. My lovely mother was a binge alcoholic who ran a very successful group of Building Societies in Chicago – she was my hero! A very powerful woman that to this day, I still wonder how she managed to run a business and raise 6 kids on her own (the love of her life, my father, passed away unexpectedly when I was born). As you can tell, I forgave her and could not have done that without my support groups and my sponsor. I was able to forgive the person who I wished was dead on a daily basis.

Forgiveness was vital for me as I had years of fear and unresolved anger. It all began when I was 9 years old. My mom came home trashed from a business event. She had blood on the back of her skirt – not knowing what to make of any of this, I thought she was in an accident. The fear I carried with me for years began then. The need to protect her (co-dependence) started then too. Then the anger, piles of anger. I was the last kid at home, so I was the co-dependent child who was there for my horrible alcoholic mother.

We never went without food, clothes, necessities, but we did go without guidance, family values and love. I remember envying my friends’ families… a mom who helped with homework, a mom who sat and chatted, a mom who morally supported.

Before my recovery kicked in, I used people like tissues, I have indulged in drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, spending and food. I was generally an angry person who thought the world owed me something. I used my addictions to try and fill this “void”. My recovery path taught me all about my voids which weren’t so scary after all.

I am a very happy, healthy mother of two girls (ages 11 and 15) and have a wonderful husband. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear them say things like, “my friends love you mom, they think you are great”, “you are the best mom”, “so and so wishes her mom was like you”… I feel like every crash and fall, every cliff-hanger, every pothole of my ACOA journey was worth it when I see my incredible girls grow.

Serenely

Janice

+- There is always a light, if only a tiny flicker… (Tracey)

When my mum passed away last year after suffering from alcohol dependence for as long as I could remember – I turned 40 in the same week – it brought with it a complete mixture of blessings, grief, relief and many unexplored emotions.

The fact that she lay dead on the floor of her flat, undiscovered and decomposing for almost a week, was the single element that caused me the most amount of pain in the days following the arrival of the news. She’d kept family, neighbours and barely any friends at all, at such a distance for so long, never really letting anyone into her circle of misery, untruths and wrapped in pain beyond her ability to convey.

So the fact that she hadn’t returned my answer-phone messages wishing her a happy Mother’s Day, or saying thanks for her well wish for my 40th left on my answer-phone, was certainly not out of the ordinary. Mum always had trouble keeping it together to have a ‘non-drink influenced’ conversation at special times for years and usually resumed contact long after the actual event.

During the days that followed, I found myself enveloped in that dreadful week, keeping busy, organising the funeral and I had another unexpected demon to deal with too. I met up with long lost relatives who’d been drip-fed lies about the way I’d treated her, designed to ensure that mum remained ever ‘the victim’.

After the last stick of furniture had been taken away, the final meter reading noted in her echoing little flat and the line had gone silently dead on her phone, I found myself pensive yet surprisingly at peace.

I’d come to the conclusion that I was stronger than I thought I would ever be when faced with her eventual demise (even if it did only turn out to be temporary) and as the years of deception, fights, tears, defeat and pure heartbreak had flooded through my soul the previous week, I knew I had to find something positive to do with it; to have buried the experience along with her, would have been a crime.

So I searched the Internet to see what was available to help a child of an alcoholic (which I still was and always would be) and found Nacoa. A huge introductory letter to Hilary Henriques later, I found myself embraced by an incredible organisation, filled with hope, help and freely given volunteer energy.

This was my destination – a place where I could transform experiences of my own rocky voyage into something good – helping other children to realise they too were not to blame, they too were not the reason for the drinking or abuse and hopefully, help them shake free of their self-imposed shame and maybe stand a little taller and stronger, ready to face the next day.

And so began my association with Hilary, her incredible team and the wonderful Nacoa. I’m not ashamed of the path I’ve walked up to now although it’s not one I ever want to stroll down again.

Everyone we meet in our lives, every influence whether good or bad, shape and mould us and make us who we are. I know that in the darkest of rooms there’s a light – even if it’s only a tiny flicker, it is there and we can find something good in the most awful of happenings.

Nacoa continues to help thousands of children find that light, many as young as 7 years old. They help them to see there can be a different future; there is hope, belief in them, acceptance, empathy and understanding at the end of a telephone and if they choose to do nothing else, that simple fact alone can help them find a brighter day.

I am incredibly proud to be a Trustee of Nacoa and blessed to know the wonderfully dedicated, truly kind and committed people I know through it – if it weren’t for my mum, we would never have met; there is always a light, if only a tiny flicker…

Tracey

+- I grew up in a house where both my parents were alcoholics. My mother drank heavily when she was pregnant (Anon)

My father would come home drunk every single day and batter my mother. As a result my mother would drink constantly throughout the day. My mum died at the age of 32 with alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis c and cardiac problems.

My father died a few years ago with the same. My parents both drank themselves to death.

I am now 28 years old. My father sexually, physically and mentally abused me.

I have since learnt that my mother started drinking heavily at the age of 14 when she met my father who was 30 years old at the time. My mother drank heavily when she was pregnant with us. I have an older brother and a sister.

I read an article once about a boy who had similar circumstances and as a result of his mother drinking throughout her pregnancy he suffered learning difficulties, felt socially unaccepted and forgot silly things all the time.

My sister and I have the same difficulties, we have been referred to as thick and stupid as we forget the most simplest of things and it can be quite hard to communicate with people.

We also get very highly stressed and are very hard on ourselves. Basically how can I go about finding information about the dangers of alcoholism in pregnancy?

Thank you

+- Every time I watched her buy alcohol my heart sank. Each time I withdrew a bit more until I was able to disconnect myself from the world around me and withdraw into my private safe world (Sandy)

Coming to terms with my mother’s alcoholism took me on a rather circuitous route involving my own deep struggles with the substance, over many years. It was almost as if, despite vowing, I would not end up like her, I had to experience it to understand it.

I struggled for years with my drinking and was a binge drinker. Basically if I picked up a drink, I never knew how things would end up and often the results frightened me so much it was days before I did it again. Other times I was fine. The fine times, plus the days I didn’t drink, convinced me for many years, I didn’t have a problem.

I should have known that wasn’t the case as for many years my mother didn’t drink every day and she held down a job and brought up three children. But she died of alcoholism at the age of forty-eight. I occasionally made connections about what happened to her and what was happening to me in my own life but not often enough and not clearly enough.

It was only through finding the National Association of Children of Alcoholics based in Bristol, on the internet and getting finding out about the work they do with children today, that I had a clearer sense of how my mother’s drinking had affected me in my own life.

As a child I always knew something in my house was wrong. I had an anxious feeling most of the time and never really questioned it. After the age of about ten, I seemed to rarely go to other peoples’ homes so I could not compare our family to others. Indeed I never even thought of doing that until much later on. I identified with my mother so much, if she was hurting, I was hurting and it was “normal” for us.

When I was ten, we moved to Scotland. Before that things seemed okay. We had friends, we lived in a supportive community. My mother was at home looking after me and my two brothers. We lived in a comfortable home and lacked little materially.

We moved up to Scotland as my dad had got a new and better job. My mother left friends and a life behind and we moved into a caravan while our new house was being built. For the first time, my father was away for much of the week and it is clear in my mind that the drinking started then. She drank before but it was in Scotland it began to impact on us. She became moody and unpredictable. She would buy sherry and wine and drink while we were at school. This carried on for years. I could tell as soon as I saw her when I got home, if she’d been drinking. Her eyes seemed all over her face and she wore a kind of hang dog expression.

I would be anxious to avoid arguments and would try and protect my brothers from her anger. With the first couple of drinks her mood would lift, but then I think she sensed I was anxious and she’d be moody and grumpy. She’d know I was disappointed in her for drinking and would implore me not to look at her “like that”.

She’d get angry, sometimes smash things. She would sit and smoke and do a crossword and drink until she’d be slumped over the table. Sometimes she would pass out on the floor and I would lie awake worrying that we would get burgled and there was only me who could phone the police, etc. My mind would go into overdrive with anxiety. Sometimes I’d try to get her to bed. I’d try to get the boys to bed.

Mum would often drink and dial. I could tell people would first be patient and then try and get her off the phone. She was unhappy and lonely and so full of her own pain that she found it hard to be open to other people’s problems.

A favourite number for her to dial was my dad’s brother and wife in Canada. They were handily awake at three in the morning, our time. Perhaps they were the only ones she could get to pick up the phone! Once, hearing her pouring her heart out at the time, I went into her room crying. She asked me what was wrong and I told her I was worried she was an alcoholic. She hit me hard across the head and shouted, you don’t know what that word means. It was the last time I tried to talk to her about her drinking until I was grown up and even then I daren’t do it in a direct and open way.

My mother found me a threat because she knew I knew. My dad avoided all uncomfortable ideas and worries. He was as much in denial about the problem as my mother was. We learnt not to talk about any problem. Sometime when things weren’t so bad, it made things go away for a bit. And of course we loved her and wanted to protect her. She started to get fat and mean looking. I was angry sometimes and felt she didn’t’t even try to stop it. Every time I watched her buy alcohol my heart sank. Each time I withdrew a bit more until I was able to disconnect myself from the world around me and withdraw into my private safe world. I still go there sometimes.

If anyone saw her drunk I was so ashamed. It was painful and humiliating to look at her through someone else’s eyes so we rarely had friends back home. As a teenager, that made me feel different and isolated. I was lonely. I wanted someone (my dad firstly) to save us. I wish I had felt that talking to someone was an option. It never even occurred to me.

My Canadian aunt recently told me she watched us all knowing how hard it was for us and wishing she could do something. It would have helped so much to know that at the time. The worst part was feeling alone and that I could ask no one for help. I used to dream about talking to someone and the relief that would bring but felt disloyal for even having the thought.

Making a conscious decision to drink uncontrollably was never on my to do list. Firstly, as a teenager, my mother grew to dread my disapproving stare when she began drinking. Behind the stare was fear and anxiety, as I never knew how the night would end. I found not only did her mood improve if I joined her in a drink, then I would feel mature and however the night ended didn’t matter because I wouldn’t remember either.

One of the things I learnt later on about adult children of alcoholics is that you lose perspective. You start to think you are going crazy when the things you remember and are distressed about, are never mentioned (often because the alcoholic has blacked out).  You start to wonder if you are going crazy as so many bizarre things happen the night before but the next day are never mentioned.

That lack of realistic perceptions of events are magnified if you yourself start drinking alcoholically. You don’t remember what other people tell you, you did and find it uncomfortable to mention so after a while you are not sure what was real and what wasn’t. So in the end your perception of everyday events becomes a bit distorted and skewed.

Loyalty and love was what got me drinking with her. Mum would offer me wine and cigarettes so that my disapproval didn’t make her feel guilty about her drinking. And I wanted to stop her pain and mine. It worked. I knew that being sober at the end of an evening with mum was painful. If I was drunk too it was even quite fun. We would put on records and sing until the early hours. We even felt close sometimes. I don’t know whether I learnt to drink with her, or whether the genetic predisposition was there and just needed to come out.

I spent years knowing my drinking wasn’t normal. On the surface I was normal and went to University, taught in Spain and had many good times with alcohol. But it was always bittersweet. For every good experience there was a frightening one when I would excuse my lack of control with the stress I was theoretically under. In reality my life was stressful in part because of decisions I had made.

It was a hot day in Clapham that the real acceptance that I could never drink again came. Before this day I was zigzagging really, one day I would be sure I would never drink again, but it would fade, sooner or later. I would feel justified in having, just a couple that never remained just a couple. I knew stopping for a committed period (forever!), would change things. But after a birthday party in Clapham I was ready for that change. In fact I was restless all summer willing something to happen to make it all come to a head.

It was my brother in law’s 40th party. He was having it with his partner in a Spanish restaurant in Clapham. It was no accident it was a family party. These events are rife with emotion for me with the ghosts of past family gatherings lingering in my consciousness, just aching to be obliterated! Significantly, it was in a Spanish restaurant where I had lived for three years. Both factors had long associations with alcohol.

A blazing hot day we walked from the station to the restaurant with my sister in law. I had my husband and one year old son with me. I wore an irritated yet reckless state of mind that day that had come to be synonymous with out of control behaviour in my life. So, as soon as we arrived, Cava greeted us at the door and I only had a moment’s hesitation about taking a glass.

My husband looked anxious. He knew it was dangerous, but he tried to ignore it. I guzzled Cava and felt alive, talking Spanish to some of the guests and the waiters, I knew things were out of control almost straightaway but the rational side of my head had lost. Almost straight from the beginning it was lost.

By the speeches I could not focus on anyone else. I was inside my own head and feeling numb but needing more and more of something, cigarette, affection, affirmation. That terrible need came back and I kept having to drink more but it kind of felt that no amount of alcohol would be enough.

There was never a time when I was in that state of mind that I felt I had had enough. Then I sat on my brother in law’s lap. A surprise for my husband because he has four bothers and it was the one I like the least! Then I collapsed. Lying at the feet of my in laws, my husband’s family were all stepping over me, looking at me with concern and most probably, distaste. I was so sick, all over the restaurant. When it was time to go no one knew what to do. We were supposed to get a train home to Brighton. I wasn’t capable of sitting up. My brother in law took us back to his house. The party was to continue there. We would have to stay, my husband had our son and had no way of getting him home with me completely incapacitated.

I wailed for my mother. I was crying for her uncontrollably. I have no recollection of this, I totally blacked out. All I know is I was totally distraught, somewhere in me I knew I was lost and I just wanted the mother who was never there for me in life. I wanted her but she was dead. Dead because of the very thing that would destroy me and my children if I didn’t sort out this problem once and for all.

They undressed me and put my son and I to bed.  My husband was quite low and bewildered I think. He was approached by a Puerto Rican woman at the party, with whom I had had lengthy conversations in Spanish, in the earlier part of the evening. She was compassionate and told him that in her opinion, his wife was an alcoholic. She knew from experience because she was one also. She explained that other people would often not understand the lack of control implicit in that problem and that she would be able to possibly help by talking to me when I felt better and gave him her card.

The next morning I did feel worse than many other hung-over occasions. Both physically and due to the humiliation I felt when meeting my brother in law, his partner and his sister, all of whom had been so concerned for me the night before. They reminisced about the evening, which they had felt was so special and of course it was for them as there had been speeches from various people important in my brother in law’s life and they really skirted around what had happened to me and were very kind. I felt so low and that I had been an embarrassment.

In fact, the low point carried on for weeks. I felt so anxious all of the time that it would happen again and I would have no way of controlling it. I kept wondering what the family thought of it and I would wake up in the middle of the night reliving different parts of the evening. I felt totally exposed.

It was like I knew that any illusion of control that I still held onto, even after years of struggling with the problem, was gone. I couldn’t ever drink again and the future scared me.

I relived the night for a few weeks and became anxious much of the time and couldn’t sleep. I knew it would happen again if I didn’t do something different. Three years previously I had gone to AA and found the experience profoundly disturbing. I thought of my mother over and over again, listening to very familiar stories and knew that I had to deal with my feelings about her as well and the two problems were inextricably connected.

I went to the doctor’s about not sleeping hoping she would give me some sleeping tablets as I wouldn’t be able to work if things carried on like this but while there I cried, told her about the drinking and that I was scared of ending up like my mother. She was fantastic and told me that she had once watched a woman patient drink herself to death and had no intention of letting that happen again and referred me to the Psychological services. That was the best thing that could have happened to me as I began to learn to cope without drinking and talk a bit about the shame that had kept me closed for so long.

I came to terms with the relationship I had had with my mother and learned to see her as a human being and not just in terms of her alcohol misuse. She died when I was in my early twenties. It was two years after my dad had left her, of cirrhosis of the liver. I had spent years being angry with her and some years feeling glad she was dead. I hadn’t considered how much I loved her, the person she was when sober and it took me to see her in another way before I could mourn her properly and see her as a damaged but essentially good and valuable human being.

Through learning about alcohol in order to try and understand my own abuse of alcohol, over the years I have gradually come to understand why it was so hard for my mother to stop. She couldn’t cope in this world without it.

I also began to understand that there are so many other people who shared the experience of growing up with an alcoholic but it is difficult to find people to talk to about it. There is such a taboo about alcohol in our culture and the problematical side of its use is often glossed over.

On the internet, I found many American self-help groups, mainly affiliated with AA but little in our own country. I found Nacoa on the internet and was immensely relieved that such an organisation exists to help children who are growing up with the perplexing, potentially isolating problem, now have a place to turn. Their help line provides support for thousands of callers a week. It also gives adult children of alcoholics a place to turn a difficult experience around and influence the next generation positively.

Providing a forum to listen and not have their family judged is profoundly healing especially when the listener is someone that understands alcoholism and the feelings it provokes in family members. I feel that the taboo nature of alcoholism and the “don’t talk” rule families of alcoholics adhere to perpetuate the problem.

For me, as for thousands of children growing up in alcoholic homes today, just to hear about the disease in a non-judgmental way and to be heard can end years of isolation and be profoundly healing. I feel strongly that all children need to know about Nacoa and that the public in general need to learn about alcoholism and the impact it has on the vulnerable growing up in its midst.

Sandy

+- Growing up in a severely dysfunctional environment has made it so hard to fit in with other people as my reactions are so different to others and I feel very self-conscious about it (Melody)

I had a crazy upbringing due to alcohol, a disabled brother needing lots more care and attention, a controlling horrid mother with both parents drunk which turned violent.

I grew up in a mad house as an only daughter.  All 3 of my brothers abused me either sexually or physically.  My dad used me in his own way (though nowhere near as severe as the rest of the family).

My mum was an absolute bitch to me.  For years I have thought she hated me.  She blamed me for her alcoholism.  She put me down constantly.

She would not tell my uncle off for forcing himself on me (I did push him off).  I’m ok with her now (not sure if the right thing after all this mistreatment) as I have yearned for her love for years (don’t think it was the right decision).

I’m suffering severe depression now and frequently think about taking my own life, have had counselling; maybe not enough of it.

Growing up in a severely dysfunctional environment has made it so hard to fit in with other people as my reactions are so different to others and I feel very self-conscious about it.

I have succeeded in getting a job at a top company and have fought so hard for it, yet I don’t fit in and sometimes wonder if I deserve it (my self-esteem is really low).

I feel negative about lots of things and have isolated myself from lots of people, know I should not be but it’s so hard just now.

I feel so different to other people and compare myself to my work colleagues who had a normal upbringing. I feel gross that my brothers have abused me in that way. Feel bad thinking that every one of my family members abused me and I’m ok with all of them playing happy families as it’s the easier option (I think).

The effect of my childhood has caused me to not trust people (although I trust 2 good friends now); to abuse drugs, alcohol, food, exercise – possess an addictive personality – have no genuine self-esteem, to pursue unsuitable relationships with men (hardly surprising after all 4 of the men in my immediate family abused me).

I’m still trying to work out what a normal healthy relationship is like.  I find it hard to relate to women because I always blamed myself for all the hurt my mum caused me thinking everything was my fault and that I was incapable of having a decent female relationship (now know its untrue and I’m an ok female friend).

On the positive side I have a good job and have done well in my career.  I have quit smoking after 16 years, quit taking drugs, and paid for counselling and a light box to get me through this winter.  I’m very motivated in my life and have done lots, plenty more I want to do as well.  I feel I could achieve so much more if I could just rid myself of this badness.  I feel like I don’t feel I deserve a good life at times, need to get out of this isolation I’m in.

Thanks for listening

Melody

+- I went to school and tried to act normal but when I got home usually I would cook tea and look after my mum (Danielle)

Me and my two brothers grew up with my parents drinking. It was my father at first that had a drink problem. He had a good job but used to come home late after drinking and become violent and abusive towards my mum.

I was aged six when finally my mum couldn’t take it anymore. We used to see my dad at weekends. He seemed to calm down with the drink and then when I was about ten my mum started with it.

I think it was when her mum died of cancer (my nan-nan); she was very upset and suffered from depression, which runs in the family. My brothers ended up living with my dad I was the one who saw my mum get nasty towards me. I realised it was the alcohol that contributed to her being like this.

It really upset me that she started to not care what she looked like. She used to take pride in how she looked and dress nicely, put make-up on and looked young for a woman in her early thirties. But I noticed it started to change.

She used to drink strong cider and anything really. I went to school and tried to act normal but when I got home usually I would cook tea and look after my mum.

Over the years she got involved with a very violent man and I couldn’t take it anymore.

My mum was vulnerable and was the nicest person in the world. When she didn’t drink she would do anything for anyone.

My mum would defend this man when all I was doing was trying to protect her but she couldn’t see that. In the end at the age of fifteen I moved out. My mum tried to stop drinking and went in hospital for detox a few times. I stayed at my dad’s with my brothers for a few days over Christmas 1996. My dad was with a woman who I did get on with but she had a drink problem.

My dad’s drinking started again and he was out all the time in the pubs with her. We were in the house when he came back around teatime the day after Boxing Day looking upset. He’d had a disagreement with Carol, his partner, that night.

The worse thing in my life happened. I ran the bath for my dad, we were supposed to be going to our stepsister’s for tea. Me and my brothers were watching TV when Alan, my brother, shouted at the bottom of the stairs my dad was hanging.

I didn’t believe it at first.  I rushed to the stairs and there he was.  We were so shocked I was hysterical not sure what to do. We went to the top and got my dad down. He was not breathing and his heart had stopped. We put him on the floor. I rang an ambulance – it seemed to take forever. I tried to resuscitate him but I was only 15 and I didn’t know what to do.

The police came first, then the ambulance. After what seemed like forever, maybe 20 minutes or more, they got his heart beating.  My youngest brother, 12 at the time was sat in the corner in shock. My dad managed to hang on a few hours but the following morning he died. In a way I knew he wouldn’t make it. He would have had brain damage for the rest of his life if he would have survived and I know he would not have wanted to be here.

After that I tried to stay strong being the oldest. My mum was distraught. She came out of hospital and she started the drinking again. Even though my dad and my mum were not together they were still close and got on better apart.

She eventually got away from that evil man she married but moved away to Hastings. She met a man who was nice to her but also a drinker; this was the life my mum got into and was bound to happen.

I used to visit when I could. I was very close to my mum and spoke to her often. On April 11th 2002, I got the phone call I was dreading. She had passed away and there was nothing the hospital could do. By the time she got there she had lost too much blood. I was so upset but I tried to be strong. All I can do is think of the good times because we did have many good times.

My youngest brother is in and out of prison. I believe he does it to block out the pain we went through. My other brother is a drinker just like my mum and dad. I just hope he will stop or at least cut down before it’s too late. He’s only 23 and has all his life ahead of him.

I don’t know how I’ve kept it together but I’ve got a 2 year-old daughter who means the world to me. I rarely drink and am trying to give her the best life I can. I’m in a stable relationship with a lovely man who has a 10 year-old son. I am happy and trying to get on with my life the best I can.

I will never forget my past and what’s happened in my life. I just try and believe my mum and dad are at peace now and in a better place.

I hope my story will help others.

Danielle

+- Working it out – The effects of living with alcoholism (Ann B)

Where is he? Who is he with? How much has he drunk today?

Will he come home tonight? My head’s spinning.

“Have you tried Al-Anon?” she said.

“Why?” I said, “I’m not the one with the problem.

“KEEP COMING BACK!” they said.

It’s not that bad. It could be worse and when he’s not

drinking, everything is all right. He says he needs me.

“Read this book”, she said.

LIES OF THE MIND – I read, Chapter 3.

“It’s a bit heavy and it’s made me cry”, I said.

“Yes”, she said.

I’ve got a good job. I’ve studied and I have qualifications.

(I’m not stupid!)

I look after the children, keep the house tidy and pay the

bills. (Having it all meant doing it all!)

“Are you looking after yourself”, she said.

“Of course”, I lied, lighting another cigarette.

He’s promised to change. He bought me flowers today.

Then he hit me.

He loves me……..He loves me not……..

“Have you considered counselling?” she said

“No”, I said,”My doctor says I’ve dealt with my past”.

REPEATED PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOUR, I discovered.

“Oh dear”, I said, “I’m turning into my mother.”

Why do I SAY ‘Yes’, when I mean to say ‘no’?

How can I express my feelings – say what I mean

and mean what I say?

“Assertiveness classes might help”, she said.

“I can’t afford it”, I said.

“Can you afford not to?” she said.

I signed up.

I have a new life now.

Meaningful relationships with people I care about.

My Higher Power guides me – speaks to me through others,

when I’m in my garden, out walking or taking a break

at work.

I’ve developed new skills, re-discovered the pleasure

I get when I’M BEING CREATIVE.

And sometimes, my Higher Power grants me the

privilege of helping others.

“But I’m an agnostic”, said the new lady at the

Al-Anon meeting, “I don’t believe in God”

“That’s OK”, I said

KEEP COMING BACK.

Ann B

Feeling like you want to get away from it and being unable to live your own life, sometimes leading to difficulty with relationships

+- Having just been listening to Woman’s Hour (Gwen)

Having just been listening to Woman’s Hour, and then searched for information and found the NACOA website, I send these few paragraphs in case they might echo other people’s experience. As you can see from what I’ve written, the ‘after-effects’ of growing up with an alcoholic parent are many and affect more than just the ‘adult child’ who grew up in that environment!
“My husband’s father was an alcoholic. Although my husband is in his 60s now, I have really only become aware recently that quite a few of his problematic behaviour patterns are probably to do with his experiences as the child and teenager of an (violent) alcoholic father. And watching, or listening to, his mother being assaulted by her husband, his father, from a very early age. Not to mention serious social isolation at times and discovering that no other adult was able or willing to acknowledge the fact that Tom’s (not my husband’s real name) family was dysfunctional and to then do something about it. He learnt early that they were on their own, there was no-one to protect him or his Mum.

Although Tom is very successful in his field, is not an alcoholic (nor are any of our children), is very responsible, has been (and is still) a very good father to his children, has been (mostly) a good partner to me – there are, and have always been, problems. Mostly it’s his need for control, his workaholic ‘nature’, his, sometimes almost pathological, need to anticipate outcomes / the future, his tendency to disproportionate anger and his verbal and psychological aggression (with physical aggression strictly under control but the threat of it is very often ‘in the air’).

Tom has never had any counselling or therapy and still finds it almost impossible to talk about parts of his childhood and what he, his younger siblings and mother experienced. Since we met before his parents died, I did experience the family dysfunction myself for a few years and I found it devastating and very frightening – even though by then I was a (young) independent adult and so was Tom. So it’s not that we can’t talk about it but there are many ‘no go’ areas – and also, as I mentioned above, the on-going behavioural issues that Tom has that I’m finding increasingly hard to tolerate and which he finds very difficult to acknowledge.

So far, the only ‘help’ that anyone has had, has been me going to see a therapist! Which has indeed helped me but has not, on the whole, made much difference to Tom, though it must be said that he does not think he needs any help! Perhaps 2017 will be different.”

Gwen

+- I had a happy childhood until I first realised my dad was an alcoholic around the age of 12. (Melissa)

I had recently started secondary school at a local girl’s grammar in south east London and my dad had been made redundant. I think my dad had been made redundant before and so I believe this is what triggered his depression and excessive drinking, although now speaking to members of my family who have known dad since he was a young man, it is clear he has always been a heavy drinker.

I remember waking up to go to school and not knowing whether dad would be asleep drunk in the kitchen or okay in bed. This became a regular occurrence with dad staying up most nights drinking, playing loud music, doing ridiculous jobs like cutting up wood for the fire with a chain saw when he was drunk and basically keeping the family awake. One evening he was standing on the work surface changing a light bulb drunk and he fell off and cracked his head open and we had to call an ambulance. Somehow for a time he managed to hold down a job, but by the time I was about 17 he gave up working to take what was I guess, early retirement, at the age of about 56. This was a bad idea as it meant he was now at home every day and as he has few hobbies, other than drinking, he began to drink pretty- much 24 hours a day. I would wake up and find him drinking in the morning. I would open cupboards and find bottles of wine or cans of gin and tonic hidden in boots or behind things.

I grew up very quickly as dad’s alcoholism was a family secret. My mum didn’t share the problem with the wider family or her friends and my eldest brother who is 6 years my senior moved away to university at the age of 18 and stayed away for 5 years because why would he want to return to family life the way it was? My other older brother, 4 years my senior, was old enough to take himself away from the family home and spend most of his time with his friends because why would he too want to be at home? I was too young to be able to be this independent though and my mum leant on me a lot for support because no one else knew about dad’s drinking, although our wider family had their suspicions.

Looking back I think I spent my teenage years as quite an anxious youth. I was too embarrassed to bring my friends back to my house but I was lucky, I had a good circle of friends and one good friend in particular whose house I would go to sleepovers for etc. Looking back now I wish I had spoken to teachers at school or my friends and their parents as I know they would have been able to help, and it would have been therapeutic for me to have shared my worries with other people who I was confident talking to.

At 18 I wrote a letter to 2 of my aunties and told them about dad’s drinking which certainly helped as now the wider family were able to support us. I entered a relationship with someone 7 years my senior, looking for that father figure and someone to look after me because my father hadn’t been there to do that. Out of my family I think I have tried to help dad and be pro-active because I realise that he is ill, that he does not choose to be an alcoholic. I have been to AlAnon; counselling for family members of alcoholics. I have taken him to the doctors, found AA groups in the local area for him to go to, but as much as I try to help him and as frustrated as I get because he doesn’t get help, I have realised he is the only one who can choose to help himself.

I am now 30 and wow, so much has happened in my life – and most hugely positive! Don’t get me wrong, there have been times in my life where I have felt very low. Lonely, angry and depressed, frustrated that MY dad is an alcoholic. Like most people I have things about me which I don’t like.

Addictive traits I have inherited like OCD with tidiness or the amount I eat. Over reacting when changes happen that I have not expected or have no control over. Excessively self-critical. Things, since reading the effects of living with an alcoholic parent on the Nacoa website, I realise are a result of growing up with an alcoholic parent.

However, I am beginning to learn they are part of me and that there is a reason that I am the way I am and actually I am a pretty good, kind, successful person who has a lot to be proud of and who has achieved a great deal when perhaps my life could have turned out the opposite.

I am in a healthy relationship with the most amazing man, 2 years senior and I have never been happier. It took me until the end of my twenties to find myself I think, because for so long I had put others first. I was brave and bold and realised who I was, what I wanted in life and that for so long my father’s alcoholism had carved my life and determined my life choices.

Towards the end of my twenties I realised that I wasn’t happy with a lot in my life – my relationship and my job and that both these things had really happened because of my dad’s drinking. However, I also recognised that it wasn’t healthy or necessarily right to blame my unhappiness in my life on my dad and that in the end I am now an adult and am the only one in control of my life and the one who can make a change.

As well as a healthy and loving relationship and a great home, I now have a career which I love. I teach music in schools and have my own children’s yoga company. I have grown to be so driven and ambitious so that I don’t have a life full of unhappiness and anxiety that I had when I was a teenager. I have completed an Ironman 70.3 and recently the London marathon! I have a good circle of friends and although my dad is still an alcoholic, and this still does impact my life, I have accepted that this is the way it is and I have to make the most of the family relationships that I do have and that there are people who are far worse off than me. I feel lucky and thankful most days that I have been brave and learnt to make changes and look after myself so that I can be a happy person.

Melissa

+- If it helps just one person, that is a massive win (Ian)

My Dad was an alcoholic – probably the sole reason my parents split up (he didn’t talk about his problem) in 1993.

I can remember probably the first time I was directly affected – I found him when I was about 7/8 passed out on the family landing, passed out and fitting when it was only me and him in the house.

In 1994 (I was in year 8 at school at this point) he was drink-driving and crashed his car, severely injuring himself. He was never able to work again and never fully recovered.

He died in 2002 through jaundice; his alcoholism stopped him from ever being able to recover. To give you some insight, he was 15 stone and 5’11 before his accident and when he died he was 5’6 and 7 stone.

His mental health suffered due to his alcoholism and I can imagine depression brought on by this. He was heavily reliant on me and used to call me all the time to drive him places, take him to the shops etc.

As you can imagine it made me grow up very swiftly however luckily I have a brilliant Mum who helped me through. Unfortunately my Dad wasn’t the only alcoholic in the family, my cousin died at 44, still living with his parents with no job, in his own bed in 2007.

Due to these circumstances I am always the first to talk about things and as I am an Education Manager I share my experiences with as many as I can including students, with the Mantra that if it helps just one person, that is a massive win. I think many problems especially with regards to mental health can be helped just through talking.

Ian

+- I don’t know what’s more heart breaking, when mum’s drunk and she doesn’t try and sits in the kitchen like a zombie in front of the Food Channel, or when she’s drunk and she does try (Sara)

I don’t know what’s more heart breaking, when mum’s drunk and she doesn’t try and sits in the kitchen like a zombie in front of the Food Channel, or when she’s drunk and she does try.

Today she was trying, coming in to the living room holding out the Round Britain Quiz box, and Dad says, ‘no, we can’t play that with the kids here’. There are three grandchildren ages 4, 5 and 13 running about. ‘I’m trying to make an effort,’ she mutters, leaving the room. She never comes into the living room, I mean hardly ever. It’s like a different hemisphere or time zone to her, she maybe visits three times a year. But like she says, she’s making an effort, and she comes back.

Mum tries to sit in the armchair with me – this doesn’t work, as while she is skeletally thin, I am not, and there’s an awkward jostling bit where she’s almost sitting on my lap and I have to heave my way past her and drag the footstool out to sit on. It makes me feel sad as she’s trying to be matey but the laws of physics are the laws of physics.

The 13 year old produces a pack of happy families with a total lack of irony and deals for himself and the adults; the little ones are still charging around like demented Muppets. We play, I get competitive and then remember it’s only a game when my nephew starts getting whiny, and I give him the cards he’s looking for. Throughout, Mum can’t understand when it’s her go, though to be fair neither do I and I’m sober. Either she needs an eye test and new glasses or she’s having trouble focusing, as some of the families get slurrily renamed; Mr Spud the Florist? The game ends with my husband mystified as to why he has a lone Master Bacon left in his hand, and it turns out mum has put down at least two completed sets with only three family members in.

All in all it could have been worse, but the devil on one of my shoulders gets angry, she knew the kids were coming round after school, why couldn’t she make the effort to stay sober? She’s certainly managed before, but today she can barely speak straight at 4.30 in the afternoon. The angel on my other shoulder feels sad – dad’s been suggesting she sees her GP about depression, so she’s trying to show us all that she can do it, she can join in and be normal, nothing’s wrong. But all of it just feels like a deviation from the abnormal normality, and part of me feels annoyed at her for not doing what’s expected – for not sitting and stewing with her wine and leaving the rest of us alone to carry on without her, like we’re used to. It might not be normal, but it’s what we can cope with.

At 5.30 dad gets up to deliver two of the grandchildren back to their parents, so we get ready to go as well. I don’t want to stay and chat with mum, it’s murder having a conversation with a drunk person, what’s the point. She’ll just stumble over her words and tell me things she’s told me three times before, and I’m not sharing any confidences with her as she won’t remember them in the morning. Does that really matter I wonder? If it makes her feel good right now? But I’m not that much of a saint. Plus 5.30 is, no word of a lie, mum’s bed time. Every day, without fail except for Christmas Day. ‘Oh I’m just going up to listen to the radio and have a flick through my mags’ she says, as if it’s only just occurred to her it would be nice to relax in that way once in a while. She’s 74 and she’s been doing it every night for 20 years.

So an old lady has a few too many glasses of pop and slurs her way through a game of cards, big deal, middle class problems or what. But the alcoholism is endless and relentless, and I’ve adjusted around it over the years. I don’t phone mum to speak to her after midday because I know she’ll be drunk. I can’t pop round for a cup of tea after work because she’ll be in bed. If I ring after 4pm and dad’s not there, she won’t pick up the phone. This makes life worrying. She hasn’t had a fall for a while but a few years back she went through a phase of falling down the stairs and she has had black eyes, a fractured shoulder, a chipped elbow, and her front teeth are still all broken but she refuses to get them fixed. On a big holiday in Kenya she tripped over the hem of her skirt and had to go to hospital in an ambulance, and spent the rest of the trip with a fracture and a walking stick. More recently she’s stopped drinking spirits and sticks to wine, which seems to be safer and there haven’t been any accidents for a while. Although a bottle of gin usually creeps in at Christmas and hangs around for a bit like an evil green Cassandra.

Dad has a theory that mum has undiagnosed Asperger’s, and that’s why she drinks: fear of small talk and social situations. She might well be on the spectrum somewhere. She is distant and hard to engage, and she’s certainly got worse over the last couple of years. But maybe that’s the booze. What came first, the chicken or the egg? The alcoholism is definite whatever the reason, and she won’t admit that she has a problem. Sometimes dad hides her drink when he knows the kids are coming over, but recently he seems to have lost heart and doesn’t bother.

This year he had major surgery, and I’m angry with her for not looking after him properly when he came home from the hospital, for still being dead drunk every day, for still going to bed at 5.30 every afternoon and leaving him by himself when he was in a bad way. It’s like there’s an impenetrable sound proof bubble around her and she can’t hear or see anything outside it.

When I was pregnant with my hard fought for baby, she didn’t buy me any baby clothes, not a thing. No frilly dresses, tiny shoes, mini socks or stripy rompers. I tried to get her involved with a trip to Mothercare just before I was due and she just stood in the middle of the entrance area looking round with big eyes like ET dropped in the middle of a government research laboratory. Wouldn’t normal people pick things up and exclaim over them? Or point at the cots and say I like that one, or I think that one’s a bit girly get the yellow one? And if you truly hated being there, wouldn’t you just take a deep breath and pretend otherwise, just for half an hour?

She doesn’t go out, she doesn’t have any friends. She’s never had any friends. Years and years ago, when they moved to where they are now, an old neighbour kept in touch and used to come on the bus to visit her. Then Mum wrote her a letter asking her not to come any more and that was that. Once a week Dad will take her out for lunch – she doesn’t really eat at home, just smokes and picks at a sandwich – and every Wednesday morning he takes her to the supermarket. I’ve always clung on to this as a good sign, at least she still enjoys cooking and planning meals. Not that she ever sits down at a table and eats with Dad, or anyone else, at home. But then my husband pointed out to me that she wouldn’t get her bulk load of wine and cigarettes if she didn’t go the supermarket, and their fridge is full of ready meals.

Dad has built his own life – he has lots of friends, hobbies and interests outside the home. Maybe Mum feels left out and lonely, the angel says. But what was he supposed to do, give up and rot because she decided to? The devil sneers back. When he was recovering from his op, I had a heart to heart with him: haven’t you ever thought, fuck it, let’s get divorced? I’ve threatened moving her out and installing her in a flat if she doesn’t stop, he said, but how could I, she’d be dead within a month. And he’s right, there’d be gin, then a fall, or a cigarette end would set fire to something and that would be it.

This all leaves me with a headache, torn between anger and guilt. And neither are any good to me, or to her. So I just give up, carry on, work around it and try and figure out if it’s really my problem to fix, or my fight to fight. It’s not of course, I’ve done some googling and reading. I know I didn’t cause it, can’t control it and I can’t cure it, but doing nothing feels like I’m telling the world I don’t care. And I do, I love my mum.

What I don’t ever do though is say out loud, mum you’re drinking too much, have you thought about stopping. When she’s drunk, what’s the point – she’ll just shut down and not listen. And when she’s sober I’m so pleased to be having a normal conversation with her I decide it’s not worth poking a snake with a stick and leave it.

It’s hard work thinking this much, making this many decisions all the time about what to say, what not to say, what to ignore, what to confront. So perhaps I just need to focus on being kinder to myself, and take it from there. (First published on my blog: http://canopenwormseverywhere.wordpress.com.)

(Sara)

+- My story is simple and in no way dissimilar to others I have read on the website over the last year. The reason I am writing is because: Until a year ago I did not know of the Nacoa organisation and I have really benefited from realising that I am not alone in how I feel and that it was not my fault. (Neil)

Neil’s Story

My story is simple and in no way dissimilar to others I have read on the website over the last year.  The reason I am writing is because:

Until a year ago I did not know of the Nacoa organisation and I have really benefited from realising that I am not alone in how I feel and that it was not my fault.

From reading the website I have begun to understand myself as a person and realise some of the private effects of living with an alcoholic mother for a long period of time, basically until the age of 18 when I left home.  I say private because on the outside no one would have known and to be honest I did not know how I was papering over my emotional cracks until I reached the age of  about 43.  Essentially at this age I realised I had many aspects of co-dependency developed as coping mechanisms for living in a dysfunctional family.

Throughout my life I have managed to be successful in a number of roles but often fell apart privately, suffering from a lack of confidence and self-esteem.  Without being in a role as a father, friend or in my job, I had no idea how I should feel or what I should do.  And this would be contrary to appearances as I manage a large organisation.  No one knows this at work. Strangely I have come to realise that my experiences have helped to be very good at my job!

My Story

My mum loved me dearly.  Her alcoholism was something that did run in the family and was triggered in her when she lost a child a day after giving birth. She never coped with this fully.   At first, I was only aware of her alcoholic nature mainly on the weekends at first.  Most weekends tension around the house would rise and by lunch it would be intolerable.  Often arguments and fights would break out between my dad and mum.  I would try to calm them down sometimes trying to tell the adults what to do, but probably only as a child pleading for some calm.  These fights would be difficult and would sometimes result in my mum pleading for me to ring the police and my dad saying not too.  To this day I have difficulty using the phone for personal use.  I was always torn in these circumstances.  In my job role use of the phone is not an issue, privately it is still a battle.  Such a paradox.

During serious moments of illness I was able to stay at my aunties who ran a farm.  These were the most serene moments of my life and the most stable.  To live in functional family was heaven even if only overnight.  I would stay with my aunty rather than go on away with my parents whenever possible.

During my teenage years my mum did triumph and had some long spells of sobriety, however, I was always on edge as to how these may come to an end.  The signal would often be music playing when I came home from school, often the Carpenters.  This would put me on high alert.  In many instances a quick turnaround and outside was the best plan, but not always when it was raining.  I was also able to find a number of school friends whose house I would ride to.  They never came back to mine. It was too dangerous.

Sometimes, however, I was trapped.  On these occasions I would be told off for not cleaning or making some small error somewhere.  I just took the screaming and threats.  I was told I would have to leave home during the worst moments. My dad was a rock and he did his best.  He always seemed to know that the issues were minor.  I was a good kid and basically terrified of breathing half the time, let alone doing anything normal that a child might do to get into trouble.  Later to avoid going home I would often walk to his office and wait until he went home himself.

In school I was that child who blushed when asked anything and I would often not answer even when I knew the answer.  My mind set was one of constant fear of failure.  I did not trust any support that my mum might give for fear of the backlash I would receive, regardless of outcome.  In simple terms it was easier to fail.  Looking back this was really highlighted when I was 12 and had successfully made it to a final in a squash tournament. I felt too embarrassed to win and threw the game.  It felt safer to be out of the spot light.  I was personally devastated but deep inside I was relieved.  I was certain this was easier for me and possibly it was pay back for my unhappiness.  But I don’t absolutely know.

There were several occasions when I feared for my life and from that moment I ensured I knew how to escape from my second floor room.  This involved a process of wedging the door with some wood and climbing through the window and jumping on to the garage roof which was a jump of 4 foot.  I practised this and I could do this easily.  (On reflection very dangerous).

Only one occasion did I need to do this when I heard my mum screaming outside my door.  I will not disclose the detail except to say I believed the situation was very dangerous. I did not leave through the window but stayed there ready for action for a long time until she went away.

On many other occasions I feared for my life while she was driving.  I cannot count the times we went through red lights accidently, or drove so fast on small roads.  Remember this was a generation of no compulsory seat belts and lax drink drive laws.  My brother recounted to me an occasion of a crash he had experienced with mum at about the age of 7 and being persuaded to lie to the police about the circumstances.  We laugh about it now and think how did we survive, but in truth we are embarrassed.

Countless times due to illness and alcohol my mum would faint or fit.  At a football match or some walk with the family.  This embarrassment became a stigma.  I know other parents would talk and children in my class would know.  I felt like it was my fault.  Something I was doing was making this happen.  Knowing looks and pity were served up to me regularly.  I resented them and made few friends.

During my teenage years I would try to support my mum by cleaning the house, hoovering, gardening or dusting the skirting boards etc.  I was constantly trying to please her but my lack of confidence meant I struggled at school.  And this was her measure of my success.  As a result I was a constant failure in her eyes. She rarely said this and she genuinely loved me but I know she felt this. Left handed and dyslexic in nature it was always going to be hard anyway.

The birth of my brother at the age of nine changed the focus from me a little.  He was brilliant at school and my mum worshiped him.  He was musical, academic and talented.  I was not jealous but relieved.  Some aspects of my life became calmer but my high state of vigilance stayed with me all the time.  Until this point I immersed myself in work and sport.  This was the only way I could understand my identity.  I could drive myself to new levels but remained bitterly unhappy with myself.  When other people experienced the joy of occasions like birthdays or Christmas I struggled to understand these moments.  (I still find them hard now sometimes). These had always been moments of extreme anxiety for me.  These were dangerous times in my life where happiness could suddenly turn to anger or humiliation against me.  And when circumstances changed I knew/felt it must have been something I had done or had not done.  I simply did not know how I should have felt for me.

A new life or so I thought

My new life began when I left home at 18 to go to University.  My life changed again when my mum died in my first term of study.  I loved my mum but I resented her for many things in my life.  Towards the end of her life I cared for her, bathed her and comforted her.  To the end I tried to be a good son.  We had some good conversations but ultimately (and rather embarrassingly) I was too immature to be anything other than relieved at her death.  I thought my burden had been lifted but it is only years later I realise that I had papered over the cracks again.  At the age of about 43 the cracks were tearing me apart and hence I started my serious search for an answer.

One day I spoke to someone who suggested I may have some characteristics of co-dependency.  It was from this point I researched this thread and found the Nacoa website.

Thank you for your website. 

Finally I am coming to terms with my early life experiences which were not all bad and finally I am learning how to be happy when it is just me by myself.  For over forty years being me was not a prioirity and irrelevant.  In simple terms I was a stranger to myself and yet to everyone else I gave a different image.

Thank you.

Neil

+- I am stepping out of the family game. I will be polite and friendly and will keep in their lives but I will not get back in to the game and I will deal with this when I am healthy. (Hannah)

I have stumbled across this site as now at the age of 37 I am trying to finally get myself sorted and get out of the roles that I put myself in due to my unhealthy upbringing.

My Mother has been an alcoholic as long as I can remember. Well that’s not true, as a little girl I just knew that something was wrong. That I couldn’t understand why I was bad and what I had done wrong, but it must have been really bad to have been treated like this and told so by the person I trusted … Mum.

I worked it out when I was about 9 and this just made me firstly relieved that perhaps it wasn’t just me but something else was also to blame, and then secondly it made me angry.

My mother is the type of alcoholic that is so in denial that she hides bottles and cans anywhere. Even in her bed. She will sleep on top of them and somehow not even notice. There are empty bottles and cans all over the house, car … well anywhere. BUT she was also very successful in her job, which ironically was dealing with children and families in abusive environments. The more stressful her job got (which it did increasingly) the more she took it out at home.

Being the first born and a daughter I got all of it. I stood up for myself and perhaps she felt challenged or threatened but she took this badly. Screaming, shouting, throttling me, telling me how worthless I am and how shit I am. She was nearly successful in strangling me once but luckily my Dad came home, saw her and knocked her off me.

Everyone outside the home just saw the masks that they all wore. A nice middle class family, kids in private school, modest cars and hard working. I screamed all of the symptoms of the opposite, depression, suicide attempts, no real friends, drugs, no real care about how I was, lived or died. I got myself into bad situations including losing my virginity against my will. I finally plucked up the courage to tell Mum 2 years after the fact and got told that I deserved it for being a slut. Thanks.

I managed to get my Mum to stop drinking. I gathered every can and bottle every night and put them on the kitchen table and took a photo. Every morning she would move them away and it would continue. At the end of the month I would develop the film and put all of the pictures on the table. These would disappear. I tried to talk to her and told her that she was killing everybody. I got Dad on side and he did too. She gave up for a few years (although this can range anywhere between 7 and 10 years in her and the family’s eyes) but then made everyone else feel crap still. I believe that selfishness is a very strong trait in an alcoholic parent, and when she gave up she would not apologise at all. Only saying that she had realised and was now sorting herself out and that a line had been drawn and we should move on from now.

My life has been up and down always. I am perceived as being the strong one amongst strangers and in work situations. No one thinks I need help as the mask is always on. My world finally crashed around my ears recently and something inside me and with some kind words from a new friend I have decided to get some help. I am having some Transactional Analysis and this has been really helping me to believe that I am not a bad person.

I am also stepping out of the family game. I will be polite and friendly and will keep in their lives but I will not get back in to the game and I will deal with this when I am healthy.

Good luck to you all. Xxx
Hannah

+- We can become who we deserve to be, we have each other (Paul)

I’m 41. My mother still haunts my dreams. In them she is at the top of the stairs looking disdainfully at me, often naked as she did for real, her face a bloated mask. The same stairs she tumbled down and died when I was 23. Sometimes she knocks on the front door, and when I open it she says she is back, she has been away. But you are dead, I think. I thought you were dead and I was glad. I usually awake kicking and screaming silently.

She often did disappear when we were young. For days usually, so at aged 6 or 7 or 10 I would go looking for her. Dad was at work, always away – it was how he coped. So mother would fornicate and whore and sometime bring these vile men home. Dad would return in a rage, and his fists would damage her face, and hers would attempt to damage his or stab at him with a knife. She was the one in the bar wearing sunglasses to hide bruised eyes, or when he knocked out her front tooth in front of us.

My sister and I cooked for my brother who has mental disabilities. Dad was at work. “Mummy’s tired” he would say when I came home from school. So there she was “asleep”, passed out on the garden or on the floor somewhere, sometimes with no clothes on. I dragged her into the house – she weighed 16 stone – by her hair or hands or whatever. The sofa was always wet with urine, cigarette burned out in her fingers. The carpet next to her chair and bed cratered with endless burns.

Her drinking was four days on two days off. The four days was without sleep, as a monster as it paced and cried and wailed and shouted. We were targets of humiliation, vile words, slaps, shoves, flying crockery, pulled hair. She would reinforce our insignificance, our failings, her rape as a child by her stepfather was the fault of MEN, and I was one of them.

I had few normal friendships. I dressed like an urchin. I had no clothes apart from a pair of shirts and a vest top. My shoes were my feet or black school shoes, or broken sandals held together with pins. There was always crate after crate of beer in the garage but often no food. I spent as much time away at other children’s houses as possible, and they NEVER came to mine. I turned down attention from girls so never had a girlfriend until I was 20, then had a dysfunctional relationship with a much older woman who herself drank and was violent.

My mother became very religious when she was drunk, and claimed some privileged agency with Jesus. Her tea mornings at the church enabled her to fortify her refreshments, and carry on a masquerade with the ladies as if the supernatural had made her feel better and more wholesome. I did seek help from the divine myself as there was no apparent assistance from society or other adults. The adults colluded to turn every event or party into a juvenile drinking contest, which my father mostly sought to conclude with a drunken brawl.

My mother cut her wrists at least twice. We were called from school and found her. I was an expert at cleaning up her blood, one time as she punched a window which created a terrible wound which deposited a pool of blood at least three feet across. I used a sheet and dumped it in the bath while they stitched her again. She would often overdose or try to hang herself, once pulling down the light fitting, with a chord wrapped around her neck.

Each house as we moved with dad’s job (around 20 houses) was soon christened with familiar sounds of struggle, weeping, shouting as my dad fought to control her rage. She once grabbed the wheel of our pickup whilst my Dad was driving and tried to run us off a bridge. I sat in between them as they struggled and tried to stop the vehicle.

I find myself now with anxiety disorder, depression etc. and an inability to complete anything. I have a Master’s Degree and tried to do well in my career but I am mostly hamstrung and gripped with lack of belief. I await the next calamity or disaster, and my nerves are often on edge. I do not believe I deserve any success or happiness, and see myself as damaged goods. I cannot accept compliments. I have a loving wife and we adopted two lovely children from a neglectful background in order to save them a similar fate. I am beginning my journey now to help myself. I want to be a good dad and am looking to stabilise my thinking and outlook. They don’t need me to be drunk or unstable so I want to stop the rot here and now. I drink but have reduced this to a few a week watching sport or whatever, and stop when I eat. I never drink when I am looking after the kids on my own. I’m aware of the risks so I want to do the right thing and reduce or stop altogether.

I hope for the best and wish all of you well, we can become who we deserve to be, we have each other.

Paul

Feeling confused by parents changing when they drink or feeling alcohol takes priority over everything

+- And I’ll see you again when it’s time for me (Kerry)

I’ve been thinking about writing about my own experience for some time, but as usual life gets in the way and there’s little time to reflect. I feel now is the time to reflect, and through sore, puffy eyes I’d like to share my story.

We all want an amazing Mum, don’t we?  The type of Mum, that when you peruse Mother’s Day cards you want the one that says “Mum, You Are the Absolute Best”. You don’t want to be sifting through cards thinking, oh that’s too much, or, that’s too ironic.

I loved my Mum to the core, we just connected. Everyone said we looked alike and we definitely shared lots of traits. Quirkiness, a dry sense of humour and something which could be positive, but also negative…..we were deep thinkers. We both liked to write and read poetry.

She was attractive, kind, loving, intelligent, and definitely a natural empath. She used to tell me she was a white witch, a good witch.

But then there was the other person. Not my real Mum. The black witch. The alter ego. Consumed by alcohol & mental illness, she could be unpredictable, violent, selfish and emotionally unavailable. Very often found draining a box of wine and being angry at life.

It’s one of those classic stories, born of parents who were both alcohol dependent, she had a troubled childhood and spent time in a children’s home that housed mentally ill patients. Her mother was then murdered when she was 17 years old. I won’t go on too much about her upbringing, as that was her childhood, not mine. But, it does give an insight as to how the seeds were sewn.

I was born in 1980, and my sister came along in 1982. As a very small child Mum did very well for a bit. She had qualified as a nurse, and she and my father ran an elderly people’s home in the early 80’s. I remember she was so sweet and funny, and told us silly rhymes, and gave lovely cuddles.

But it was here it started. I remember she would often disappear for a few days, leaving us with staff, I’d be crying for her in the night and asking where she was. My Nana would often come and pick us up and take us to stay with her.

My parents were going through a separation at this point, I’d be about 5yrs old.  I remember being at primary school and she wouldn’t show up to collect us, or she’d send a random friend.

I remember jumping on her bed one Christmas Day morning, my sister and I, jumping and giggling, dressed in matching outfits. Mum “fast asleep” she literally couldn’t be roused. She used to tell us “oh, I could sleep through the fire alarm going off”. I obviously realise now she was just totally out of it, and probably massively hungover.

The disappearing acts continued, she met a few men along the way. There was one guy she met whilst visiting friends in Scotland. He came to stay for a bit whilst we still lived at the residential home. I remember there was a big fight on the lawn outside when my Dad showed up for something. It was a warm day and I was playing outside in my pants! Mum ended up getting involved and her hand got badly injured, blood spraying out all over the place. I was hysterical. She bore the scar on her hand as a reminder all her life, it was strange, it formed the shape of a 2.

And then one day cycling around the block, Mum AWOL again, I saw her car outside a cottage on the high street. I stopped, and with some trepidation I knocked on the door, to my surprise Mum answered.

She had met a new man, in the village. And then things really spiralled out of control…….

I could write a book with all the memories, and I probably will, but for this purpose I’ll point out the things popping into my head now.

Mum had my brother in 1990, followed by my youngest sister in 1994. Through the pregnancy with my brother she appeared to square herself up a little and drank much less. My youngest sister was a different story, and my sister arrived early, with a much lower birth weight than my other 2 siblings. I have always felt extremely responsible towards my young siblings, and I worried about them entering this volatile situation.

My Mum and stepfather both drank, the worse possible combination of people to of met. Initially the local pub was their favourite haunt; we would spend many a weekend sat outside with a bottle of pop and as a “treat”. I could sometimes have an Appetiser…. depending on whether they had their beer and cigarette money. We went through waves of having money, and having nothing. Mum would then send me home from the pub to sort out the younger children whilst she stayed out drinking, embarrassing herself staggering home.

As a young girl I remember the fear of coming in from school, I knew they’d be drunk, but how drunk? Okay drunk? Nasty drunk? Crying drunk? Violent drunk?

The room would be thick with smoke and the smell of Riesling wine or white cider. Sometimes Mum’s booze would be in mugs… because obviously that was tea then, and not alcohol.

I’d always feel anxious and on edge, wondering if that night we’d be lying in bed listening to Elton John or Tina Turner on full volume, or Mum smashing crockery over my stepfather’s head, and him retaliating.

Then there was the mental abuse, telling me I had a big nose, and as a teenager calling me a fat b***h. Some of her favourite quotes were “Life’s a bitch and then you die” or “Life’s a bitch and then you breed one”. We had a fight once, she had got right up in my face, inebriated, and then grabbed me by my trouser belt hooks, she ripped them and ripped my top. I pushed her and she fell over backwards. I felt awful, I’d be about 14 years old, but I was angry and scared.

I remember during one big fight between my Mum and stepfather, he grabbed her hair and swung her around, pulling a bloody chunk of hair from her scalp. I called the police and the police came, as they did a few times, and, as usual she’d sober up and drop any charges. Another time after a drunken fight her ankle got broken. I had 3 weeks off school, caring for her and my siblings…. not long after I moved to my Nana’s house.

If I’m honest, on reflection, I think they (her and my stepfather) were as bad as one another when it came to the drunken violence.

In 1997 I moved out of my Nanas, she had taken me in at 14 to help me get on track again at school. Here I felt calmer and very loved, she was an amazing grandmother. (Unfortunately she was knocked over by a van, and died in December 2000).

It got really bad in 1999, I was living with a close girl-friend. Mum had a car crash, it was not her fault. As far as we know she was sober… a lorry hit her from behind, she was doing the morning school run with my younger siblings. My brother died.

This was however the perfect excuse to complement their lifestyle, especially my stepfather. Understandably consumed by grief, the drinking and fighting got really out of control. My stepfather started on heavy spirits and died a few years later in 2002, at 48 years old. My youngest sister ended up been fostered, but we remained close to our Mum.

All I ever wanted was for her to be “normal”, a happy Mum, the Mum making you a nice teatime treat, or sat down painting with you, supporting you with homework. But this was seldom the case.

When your parent drinks you seem to spend your whole life feeling guilty, overly responsible, anxious, worried, concerned, growing up too fast…… I could go on.

Fast forward lots…….with lots more random and tragic stories in the middle, and…

Luckily over the past year or so she finally got sober, it was great to see. Almost unbelievable, but amazing! I’m so grateful for this time. The best memory I have is my birthday this year. We had a phone conversation and she said “Kerry, my whole life I’d felt so sad and alone and then you were born and I wasn’t sad or alone anymore”. She told me she was proud. It crushed me, and I cried bitter sweet tears all day. That was Mum talking, real Mum.

Unfortunately my Mums sobriety was all too little, and far too late. Years of abuse had taken their toll on her body and caused huge health issues. On Monday, 07/11/16 she passed away in A and E, I won’t go into detail (I’ll save that for the book!) but I was with her. She was 58 years old.

I’m now grieving. Grieving for what could have been, grieving my lovely Mum, grieving the addict, grieving her bipolar illness. We never got to do the girly days out, or happy family gatherings, the lovely photo opportunities. It’s so sad and so raw.

So I want to say RIP Mum, may the demons you’ve carried around all of your life dissipate & be replaced by peace and love within your spirit.

Fly high ⭐️ I miss you xxx

 

I wrote a poem this week, penned from my emotions.

Mum, Dying to Be Happy
Sometimes a flower
Sometimes a thorn
Sometimes the gold
Sometimes the pawn
Sometimes the sunshine
Sometimes the rain
Sometimes the freedom
Sometimes the chain
Sometimes the light
Sometimes the dark
Sometimes a delight
Sometimes a nark
Sometimes jovial
Sometimes sad
Sometimes happy
Sometimes mad

The ying and yang of mental illness
Stripped you of clarity
Stripped you of wellness
But it didn’t define you for all of your life
There were glimmers of hope
There were glimmers of light

You put the cork in the bottle, for that we were grateful
You lost the inebriation which made you so hateful

You were Mum again, if just for a while
That quirky sense of humour and gentle smile

It was lovely to see you so much calmer
No more shouting No more drama
It was lovely to laugh and reminisce
It was lovely to hug you and give you a kiss
And then that final kiss…….
On your head
For that was it, your human form was dead

But your kind spirit is free!
It’s as free as can be!
A shooting star for eternity

So fly high Mum
Be the flower
Be the gold
Be the sunshine
Be the freedom
Be the light
Be the delight
Be the jovial
Be the happy
Be all those things you were destined to be
And I’ll see you again when it’s time for me

Kerry

+- I never knew when I came home from school whether she would be sober, drunk or dead. (Matthew)

My mother was an incredible woman, she brought up 2 boys, whilst dealing with her hardest battle of them all, to which eventually she would succumb.

One of my earliest memories was finding vodka bottles hidden around the house. At that age, I had no idea this was not ‘normal’. Throughout my childhood, my brother and I stayed with friends and family, even foster parents who were friends with my mum. My mum was in and out of rehab and hospital, up to 1 year at a time. I always thought/hoped that she would be able to beat this addiction and be able to move forward with her life. Unfortunately, I never got to know my mum when she was sober, the only memories I have are those when she was drinking.

I never knew when I came home from school whether she would be sober, drunk or dead. That was my main concern. I loved my mum so much, but I was frustrated as I couldn’t understand why, if she loved me, she wouldn’t just stop drinking. This was my thought process within my young and ignorant viewpoint.

My mum was in and out of hospital and rehab throughout my young life, however, after I turned 18 and a week prior to heading to university, my mum deteriorated. I called an ambulance and went to hospital with her. I sat by my mum’s side in the hospital, like I had done a number of times previous, but this time it was different, I knew it and my mum knew it. She looked me in the eyes and told me to tell everyone that she loved them. At that point, the doctor ushered me away and that was the last time I saw my mum alive, she died moments later.

I was heartbroken, but there was also a part of me that was relief, she was no longer in pain and struggling with her addiction and as strange as it sounds, I found comfort in that. I still went to university but I didn’t deal with my loss very well. My weight ballooned and my relationship with alcohol was heading in a similar direction to my mothers, I was using it to block out my emotion pain and heartache I was feeling.

However, I made a conscious decision to change, I discovered fitness and started go to the gym regularly. In my third year of university I found out I was going to be a father which really provided me with the focus I needed in life. There was not a chance I would let my son have a childhood like mine.

Fast forward a good few years and I’m now a father to an amazing son who’s about to be a teenager himself. I am the director of my own company and have successful career, I have a beautiful fiancé and I’ve achieved another goal which was to compete in a fitness competition.

I have a great relationship with alcohol, I love a glass of wine at the weekend, or a beer with my friends.

NACOA is such a great charity, I wish I had this option when I was younger. My childhood experiences have made me who I am. I’m more than happy to pass on my thoughts and life experiences with anyone, I’m here to talk but more importantly, I’m here to listen.

Matthew

+- They were very withdrawn and had no interest in mine or my sister’s lives. We both ended up leaving home around 16, because we could not cope with the situation anymore. (Karen)

As a child I had two alcoholic parents, every week day evening my Dad would walk to the local corner shop to ‘top up the electric meter’ and to purchase alcohol. Friday and Saturday nights my younger sister and I were shipped off so they could go to the pub. Sundays were the day they would drink the whole day into the evening.

My dad went two ways drunk he was either aggressive/unpredictable, we could hear him yelling from our bedrooms. Shouting how much he in-particular hated me and would hurl abuse. He was convinced I wasn’t his biological daughter. Or he became depressed and self-loathing, you never knew which side of his personality it would bring out.

I feel my mum drank to cope with my Dad, she was/is submissive, passive and frightened of my unpredictable Dad. But with them both being intoxicated this led to horrific nightly arguments.

They were very withdrawn and had no interest in mine or my sister’s lives. We both ended up leaving home around 16, because we could not cope with the situation anymore.

I am writing this now, because for the last 11 weeks I have had two sober parents. This is the only 11 weeks I can remember out of 34 years of my life. For a second I had a glimpse of a family where alcohol was not the priority. My Dad has been on and off alcohol for the last few years, he suffers with inflamed joints and drinking makes his tablets less effective and therefore making his condition more painful. But recently appears to be in control of the situation.

However, my Mum was very much still in denial. Last November there was an incident where she fell down the stairs. This frightened her and she decided to get help for her issues. This time, I seriously thought it was the turning point. My sister and I were so confident that we booked us all a family holiday as a Christmas present and the prospective of my 20 month old son staying overnight was a possibility.

My son makes this situation more difficult, they are brilliant with him and I don’t want to deny them access. My Dad is a much better Granddad (not that it would take much) than Dad and my son adores him.

But both of them blatantly lied to me over and over this weekend about Mum drinking, I can’t trust them with the care of my son when they can’t tell me the truth. They were caring for him every Friday whilst I was at work. But I think this a privilege I am sadly going to need to stop until they can prove they are can be trusted.

I posted a post on social media for mother’s day yesterday telling her how proud I am of her, she called me drunk to thank me for this post. Oh the sad irony!

I feel hurt, angry and saddened by the fact having a grandchild hasn’t been enough to make her stop. They are lucky they haven’t lost me already but I have my own family to think about and a successful career to juggle and I am not sure how much more I can take, I am at breaking point.

Karen

+- I have suffered my Dad’s heavy drinking from the age of 6 to 65. (Donald)

The first incidents I remember are being in the kitchen of my house in Streatham and booze being around, glasses of beer, etc. He would repeatedly hit me around the face and break my NHS spectacles. There was never a time when he did not hit me. Once he half killed me by giving me a heavy slap in the bath. They had to take me to Children’s Hospital that time.

I spent a lot of time trying to get out the house. I would go for long cycle rides and long bus rides; I would get on the tube and go 20 miles. I would never want to be at home because all it would be would be my Mum and Dad drinking.

He would come home in a state late at night completed soused and pick a fight with my Mum; this would go on every night of the week. In my teens I would have thoughts about what it would be like to harm my parents; I would soothe myself on a daily basis by day-dreaming a horrible fate for them. If I did not do that I would contemplate suicide (suicidal ideation) and this went on from the age of 6.

He was constantly surrounding himself with like-minded individuals and he still does to this day. He would tell them what a dead loss I was and how I never did a day’s work in my life. They would readily believe him and repeat the tales to me when I met up with him (on the rare occasions on which I did).

They would criticise my academic abilities and say that it was nothing that I had got a BA (Hons) (Accounting) and a Diploma of English Law. They would say that I never had a job and would say that I was a disgrace to my parents, even though I have years on my work record and a full set of NI contributions.

My Dad (and Mum) would always try to pretend that it wasn’t them that had said anything whenever I would challenge them about bad mouthing me to their friends. They would act as if they were making it up. Just recently (two months ago) my Dad was ill; he told me not to come and see him. My sister went to see him and they all got drunk together. My sister criticised me, saying that I did not drink.

My life has really been a horror story; somebody ought to tell people that being an alcoholic turns people into cheats and liars, not only that, it can render the offspring aimless and unhappy as they constantly try to please parents who are bent and twisted out of shape.

I try to avoid my father now, I cannot stand the kant and hypocrisy of the man. I hope what I have written will help the readers on your site to know that it is not their fault and that there is hope out there for them.

Donald

+- I developed a plan to stop the constant longing for my father to come home and wondering why I wasn’t good enough to stop drinking for (Heather)

My father was Graham Paddon, professional footballer and coach. When I was born in 1991 he was assistant manager at Portsmouth football club. I have some of my earliest memories in the crèche at Fratton Park alongside the earliest memories of my dad, watching whilst he watched his team on the sidelines. I think that was the first time I felt pride I must have been four years old.

My parents separated when I was five. My father was an alcoholic and the reason for their divorce, a fate I believe that was brought on by the pressures in his career. Following their separation my mother, sister and myself where placed in a safe house so my father could not find us. To this day I don’t know exactly how or why this happened, I only have scattered memories of fights and shouting. I was too young to really know what was happening. Dad’s career was ending, his drinking increasing and in the end he moved back to Norfolk, where he eventually ended up residing in a caravan park. The disease got the better of him.

Growing up I saw my father a handful of times, a couple of which had to be cut short because he would drink whilst I was in his care. Our relationship was reduced to a phone call every Sunday and letter writing. I developed a plan to stop the constant longing for my father to come home and wondering why I wasn’t good enough to stop drinking for. I turned it into to hope, I told myself I would ‘fix’ him (not realising he was the only person who could ‘fix’ him).

As soon as I was able to drive I was going to drive to Norfolk and help him get better, because I knew that if it wasn’t for the drinking my parents would still be together now. Unfortunately he passed away when I was sixteen and before I had learnt to drive. When I was a teenager I was confused and angry with a lot of things, I definitely felt depression and anxiety most of the time. The day I had a phone call to let me know my father had died, I lost the hope that was driving me to carry on. All I ever wanted was a relationship with him, and the chance was stolen from me by a disease that is so easily swept under the carpet. The last words I said to him were in an argument about drinking. Such is the case with so many children of alcoholics. I didn’t manage to get to know the man behind the alcoholism; my memories are based on photographs and home videos.

When I was twenty-three, and in my third year of university, I pursued a project to document my journey to find out more about my dad on film. I finally felt I could face the past and find out more about my father, rather than reading about him on the Internet or relying on my broken memories. I asked old friends, colleagues and family how they remembered him. I wanted to have the fond memories people shared with me forever, and to remember the man he was before the drinking started.

Although I was kept relatively sheltered from my father’s drinking, as he moved away and I didn’t witness the effects to him on a daily basis, I have also been the stepchild of an alcoholic. It was my stepfather’s addiction I had to learn to live with regularly.
My mum was with my stepfather for 7 years and it was during those years I witnessed the common dilemmas a child of an alcoholic faces; what am I going home to? Will he embarrass or humiliate me tonight? Is my mum ok? Every night was the same back and forth between parents, “you have been drinking” “No I haven’t” and so on. All the while my brother and I have found the bottles of whisky hidden in the garden. Do I say anything, when I know the man I look at like a father is lying? You begin to loose respect and it only gets worse and worse.

For me I wasn’t directly related to him, so I think that’s what I used to cope with it, but I watch it affect my brother to this day. He no longer hears from his father and goes through all the same pangs of guilt and confusion I go through, could I have helped? Why wasn’t I good enough? Guilt is the feeling that sticks with you (even though you know it wasn’t your fault) and it spreads through the family: Mum, she feels guilty for putting us through it. Me, I feel guilty for watching my brother going through it and my mum constantly getting her heart broken. My sister, she deals with all the same feelings I deal with yet for two siblings. All of us are wishing there was something we could have done.

Both father figures in my life were children of alcoholics. I refuse to continue the pattern. We need more awareness to help other children suffering because of an alcoholic parent, and help the parents to understand the effects of their drinking and perhaps even the cause. We need to out this disease and offer more support like Nacoa to children of alcoholics everywhere. I made a film as my coping mechanism before I found Nacoa. Perhaps if I had known about them sooner I wouldn’t have had to wait so long before I felt I could face my demons.

Heather

+- Nanny drinks her special juice out of a cup (Lorna)

I am 29, my mum is 55 and is an alcoholic. This has been a problem for I would say well over ten years. Just to make you aware myself and my sister (24) had a how you would say “normal upbringing”. We lived in a three bed semi, parents married, both worked etc.

From when I was under ten I was aware that my mum went like a weeble when she had had wine. My parents did not go out much so we used to go to my mum’s best friends or auntie and uncle’s on a weekend.

My mum’s brother was an alcoholic and died ten years ago at 38. He had Huntington’s disease, as did her sister and dad. They have also passed away now and my mum never spoke to her family for over ten years. Maybe this is the reason she is an alcoholic.
I can’t really remember my mum being really bad drunk when I was little. (The photographs and video cameras state different now like). It was more as I got older and I noticed that it was ALWAYS my Mum who was the drunkest at EVERY party, spilt red wine on her best mate’s new cream carpet, fell off the chair, fell into the door, fell into her mate’s front bush when we was getting in the taxi home.

She even got paralytic at my eighteenth birthday party and went flying and sat in my chocolate cake! She had to be driven home sitting on sheets in the back of my auntie’s car so the chocolate never got on the seats.

She kicked off at my friend’s and had to be physically restrained. I think it was after that night that both me and my sister realised we had a big problem on our hands. My mum also got drunk at my sister’s 21st and made it all about her.

So to try and cut a long story short, my mum used to work 4.45 until 10pm Monday to Friday and seven nights a week my dad used to go the supermarket and buy two bottles of white wine and her twenty fags.

Me and my sister spoke to my dad about it and he absolutely flipped at us, this was after we went on holiday for my mum and dad’s twenty fifth wedding anniversary with my dad’s family. My mum got blathered the first night and was still drunk the next day, came by the pool started dancing to Irish music. She fell head first into the pool in front of everybody. I was mortified, my dad took her to bed and it wasn’t spoken about again.

My mum left my dad in May the next year said she wasn’t happy and left. The divorce was messy and she moved a new fella in who she worked with. She continued to drink, black eyes appeared, bruises etc.

By this time I was 21 and having my first daughter. My mum helped look after her overnight sometimes etc. and when I had, had my second daughter, my eldest who was around three said that “nanny drinks her special juice out of a cup”. The drinking has got worse and worse over the last five years and my sister addressed it, my mum only admitted she had a problem last year. She has since then threw her boyfriend out, he had his own issues. So we have managed to get more of a grip on her. Everybody has been blamed besides the kitchen sink for her being the way she is.

She has been drinking secretly in her room, now drinking in the day. She even went into work drunk and I caught her totally by accident so god knows how many times she has done that! She won’t go to the pub now because people are onto her.

When my mum would finish work last year she wouldn’t get home until two hours later and my sister had to drive around looking for her, she would always find her drunk walking. My mum had been to the shop and bought wine, drunk it while walking and then my sister would find her.

She’s not drunk in the morning, but you can smell it on her most times when you see her. She has been going to AA but that is totally to get my sister off her back my mum says she’s “not that bad, there are people so much worse than her”. She went to her mate’s two hours away and was drunk on the train.

Without a drink, my mum is one of the nicest people you could meet. She works hard (she has two jobs) and loves myself and my sister and especially my children so much and my kids adore her. It’s when she drinks she’s like a totally different person. She gets abusive and acts like the whole world is against her.
She also drinks the majority of the time on her own, it’s when she goes into total self-destruct mode people see that side of her. She doesn’t go out much.
My mum took a funny turn in the shop last week, light headed etc. and maybe that’s a sign the damage is coming because she has felt sick for weeks and it doesn’t seem to be shifting. I have got three kids now. My sister is doing well in her job so am I, we both have partners that love us etc. and are so understanding of my mum. She says she wants help but won’t stop drinking so god knows what’s around the corner.

Lorna

+- I remember when I was younger thinking that no one would understand what it was like for me – but you may find they do (Carl)

So I guess I should start by telling you about me. I’m 34 years old, but throughout my childhood and younger adult years I had a difficult relationship with my father. 18 months ago that relationship came to an end, as sadly at the age of 64 my dad passed away – as a result of alcoholism.

My early childhood memories of me and my dad are fun, happy times.  I’ve often been told by my mum that my dad was a great father when I was younger; he really helped her in raising me and my sister. I guess I never really noticed alcohol and a problem with my dad until I grew up a bit more, probably around the age of 9 or 10. Just things like noticing dad’s speech going a bit more slurry, or him appearing really tired in the afternoon, or his eyes being more red / yellow.

I remember I used to find empty drink bottles, hidden in the garage, and thinking at the time that it wasn’t normal. I remember the friction it caused in the relationship between my mum and dad. It was obvious that dad was causing problems, and also had money issues, and I was noticing more and more arguments between my mum and dad – especially after I had gone to bed.

My parents divorced when I was about 14. I completely understood my mum’s decision, and agreed it was for the best. So then it became me, my sister and my mum in the family home. My mum did, and still does, a brilliant job on bringing me up and teaching me everything I know – I couldn’t have had a better parent. So I had great stability in my life from that perspective, one which I am very grateful for.

After my dad moved out he lived in and around our home town for a couple of years. I’d see him a few times a month, usually over at his flat, or we might go camping or something. When I was with dad, he generally did not drink too much – I recall – but there was no doubt he drank when I went to bed, or once Id left. I still found drinks hidden away – almost as if he didn’t want me to know he was drinking.

A few years later my dad was in a new relationship, and re-married, but then unfortunately divorced within the year. A sign at the time that he was very difficult to have a relationship with. By this point I was at university, and whenever I did see dad I still noticed he was clearly drinking.

Dad did get into a new relationship around this time and was relatively stable with this partner for a few years. But ultimately the same pattern of events occurred, drinking, money problems, and then hiding his heavy drinking. So that sadly did not end well.

He then had a period of years where his drinking was out of control, he could not hold down a job (or accommodation) and went through a period of time in a hostel and a dry house. Whilst this was a very sad time for my dad, I did hope it may be the ‘rock bottom’ that he needed. He certainly had the warnings from the doctors too.

This was the first real time he openly admitted to me that he had a drink problem, and that he was getting help, and would not drink again.  Dad did manage to find some stability in his life again, managed to move into his own shared accommodation, and the occasional bits of work.

A few years later he got together with a new partner and really did seem happy with her – and they moved in together. Dad’s life did become the most stable it had been for some time. I would see dad once or twice during each year, and whilst he was happy, and settled, it was clear he was still drinking though.

I remember my last long weekend that I spent with dad, at his home, the summer the year before he died. It was a lovely 3 days, but also stressful as it was evident he was drinking heavily again – the tell-tale signs of slurred speech, tiredness, red/yellow eyes. The really worrying thing for me though, was that I only saw him have one can of lager that weekend. So wherever he was drinking, he was doing it in hiding.

I saw my dad one last time in the Easter of 2014. He didn’t look great, very tired, drawn and edgy in himself.  I’ll never forget the summer of 2014. I’ll never forget the moment my mum came to find me, I could tell by her face that something was wrong, and I knew it was my dad. He was taken ill, suddenly, overnight and within days was in a high dependency ward. Sadly just over 3 weeks later he had passed away, his body had given up on him, and ultimately died from organ failure as a result of alcohol abuse.

Losing my dad was the hardest thing I have ever gone through, and I imagine there won’t be many more things harder than that in the rest of my life. I think I always knew that sadly it was going to end for dad in some way like it did. But there is also that bit of hope in you, where you think they may be able to stop their drinking.

It is difficult understanding the impact of alcohol on my dad. It’s something I have been trying to deal with most of my life, and now he has gone I reflect on it all. Could things have been different? Could I have helped more? Could he have changed? Why did he drink so much? Why did he hide his drinking? Will I become an alcoholic? So many questions and little answers. But I do know that dad had a caring son and daughter, and loving partners, and many friends – he had all the support he could have asked for. I do still have the feelings of guilt over what I could have done, but I find these thoughts more manageable now – when I take a few moments, and think through everything I did do, I know I could not have done more.

Things did not end well for my father, but I do know if he could have been more open, more honest, there was support out there for him. Should you be reading this and looking for help for your parent it is out there. Should you find yourself going through hard times, speak to someone.

Nacoa have a fantastic range of support options to you on the phone and email. Speak to friends, and where possible other family members. I remember when I was younger thinking that no one would understand what it was like for me – but you may find they do. It has only been in recent years, as I have learnt to be more open with my friends, that I have learnt about their struggles with a parent and alcohol – or a friend they had who was in a similar situation.

Carl

+- Listening to you drunk on the phone today broke my heart (Jayne)

I love you and I always will. You’ve always put others needs ahead of your own. For once, put yourself first and get some help. You’ve cared for us, raised us well and worked hard your entire life. You deserve a life that is full of happiness, love and support from your family and friends. I will support you and Dad by attending family counselling.

I know that you hate the alcohol and how it has pushed us apart. The only thing that will bring us closer and make us strong again is if we tackle our family’s problems including the alcohol head on. I can’t bury my head in the sand. Listening to you drunk on the phone today broke my heart. Being around you when you’re drunk brings up so many unhealthy emotions – frustration, anger and helplessness. It saddens me more than you realise. The alcoholism is driving me away and I want to be close to you. I can’t accept the alcohol mum.

You’ve always believed in me and supported every decision I’ve ever made. Now it’s my turn to support and believe in you. I have included some names of family and addiction counsellors at the bottom of this letter. We’ve never tried this so please give it a go but you need to be willing.

I love you Mum. I want there to be so many good times in the future but I just can’t see that happening like it is right now. I want us to be a close and strong family. Please try – I’ve never wanted anything more than this.

I love you. Jayne

+- I’m Stacey, I’m 18 and my mum is an alcoholic (Stacey)

I’m Stacey, I’m 18 and my mum is an alcoholic.

Recent events have left me feeling angry and full of hate towards her and what she is doing to herself, me and my dad. She has been addicted to alcohol for as long as I can remember – I thought it started when I was around 8, but have recently discovered it started around 20 years ago, which would also explain why I was born premature, weighing 3 pounds and asthmatic – her first of many parenting disasters.

I remember when I was younger, she used to scare me so much. I didn’t know what was wrong with her, I just knew that she wasn’t normal and that I didn’t like it. She used to make me do weird things like phone family members and tell them that she wasn’t breathing when really she was sat there forcing me to say these things – I still don’t understand what she got out of doing it but she was my mum and I was her little girl, so I did what she told me.

She’d pick fights with my dad and wound him up to the point where he would hit her, there’s been moments where he probably would have killed her if it wasn’t for me. She has pinned me against the wall with my neck, dragged me down some steps with my hair and grabbed me so hard by the stomach to stop me from running away I couldn’t breathe. My dad couldn’t help me because he was always at work, he has 2 jobs to provide for me while my mum uses my child tax credits to get drunk. I don’t think I ever told him about that.

There’s been 2 occasions where she has tried to kill herself… I found her just hours away from dying after taking too many painkillers.

Usually I cope pretty well – better than expected. But mine and my dad’s money has started going missing, we knew it was her but we didn’t have any proof – until I caught her stealing some this week. This caused an explosion of arguments and feelings. I leave college in a few months which means her money stops, and she knows me and my dad won’t fuel her habit. It makes me so angry that me and my dad work hard for our money and she thinks it’s okay to take it and have the cheek to deny it! She doesn’t even think she is in the wrong.

Like most kids in this situation, it has affected my personality and relationships. I sometimes find myself being selfish – talking about myself and my problems and not taking enough time to listen to others about theirs. I think this is because I can’t talk about myself or my problems at home.

I lack confidence. I’m not close to many people in my family – maybe because I’m scared they’ll hurt me like she has? I don’t know. I can’t bring people back to my house, I feel like they will judge me. I sometimes snap at people when they’ve done nothing wrong because I’m stressed because of things at home. I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot make her stop, she is the only person who can help herself and clearly she doesn’t want to.

I’ve learnt not to blame myself or my dad. Some people say it’s an illness, I say it’s a choice. It was her choice to pick up the bottle and now she has a choice to put it down and she won’t. To anyone who’s going through this – hang in there, you will learn to cope with it in your own way. To anyone who happens to be reading this that isn’t affected by alcohol/substance abuse, you will most likely have other problems in life, but maybe you’ll appreciate that this isn’t one of them – do I sound selfish again? Stay strong guys ❤️

(Stacey)

+- Suicide is the main thing I think of every day, not for myself but that she will eventually take her own life, can you imagine, how would I live with that? (Jessica)

Still now, at the age of 21 after 15 years of my mother’s drinking does it pain me to say my own, darling mother is dependent on alcohol.

It kills me because she is the most wonderful, amazing person when sober. How is that possible? All I’ve ever wanted is a mum, and I think that’s all I’ll ever crave.

My mother’s drinking has spiralled out of control now, to the point where she is, drinking before work, and early hours the morning.

She’s not the person I thought she was and it breaks my heart, I try and tell myself every day that she is poorly and so sad and can’t help this disease taking over her body. I wake up and have constant reminders that one day my mum is going to die because of this awful disgusting disease that’s controlling her.

I get scared most days when I see a car that’s the same as my brother’s, or dad’s or another family member because I think they’re here to tell me she’s died, or killed herself. Suicide is the main thing I think of every day, not for myself but that she will eventually take her own life, can you imagine, how would I live with that? The heartache, the pain?

As hard and painful as it is sharing this, I want people who are going through similar things to feel okay, they are not alone, like myself as I haven’t seen many things about mothers and daughters on here.

All I want is a mum, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Jessica, age 21.

+- I am old enough to understand this isn’t my fault. It doesn’t stop me getting angry (Helen)

I just found your website.

My mum is in Rotherham General Hospital for the 5th time this year, but this time she’s not coming out. She weighs 5 stone and is yellow. She has scabs all over her and is swollen in her arms and her legs. My sister is running round talking to consultants about “her condition”. She still thinks she is going to get better. My dad keeps crying. They will have been married 50 years in July. My dad has been looking after her on his own for the last few weeks – changing the bed at least twice a day, carrying her to the toilet, trying to make her eat some food.

My brother and I know she is dying and has a matter of days. We have accepted it. We are angry that she has wasted her life. I am 46, my mother is 66. She looks 96 and the staff at the hospital have to be told she isn’t an old lady with dementia, she’s a sick woman who has drunk herself to death. She wants to go home – she wants brandy. I drove for 3 and a half hours to see her – and she didn’t even talk to me.

I have spent the morning checking out the costs of funerals to make sure there’s enough money to bury her. Tomorrow we are going to discuss her end of life plan with the doctors.

I can’t do anything for my mother – she doesn’t want me, she wants brandy.

I’d like to do something to help other people who might have to deal with this and are living with what we have lived with in the past.

She got drunk at both mine and my brother’s weddings, we don’t do “Christmas” with her, she is so nasty and spiteful when she’s drunk – and she’s always drunk – except when she’s in hospital. I am old enough to understand this isn’t my fault. It doesn’t stop me getting angry with her though.

People shouldn’t have to live with this – so many people make stupid comments – they don’t get it. I get it, I’d like to work with your team and help kids that are going through this. Probably not going to be much use straight away – but feel better for contacting you and hoping that something useful could come out of this.

Helen

+- I have cared for my dad for half of my adult life and I’m not going to do it any more (Liz)

Over the years I stepped in to help him recover from various benders, then 3 years ago he fell down the stairs drunk and broke his back and several ribs. I moved in with him, which was really difficult and he was so ill I kept thinking he was about to die.

He then went abroad and returned to the UK with legionnaire’s disease after another bender. It was at this point I couldn’t take being his live-in carer any more. I saved his life by calling the emergency doctor then moved out when he was admitted to hospital. I was completely traumatised by seeing him in that state- doubly incontinent and barely able to breathe, but still smoking and drinking. I distanced myself from him whilst I recovered.

He has never forgiven me for ‘abandoning’ him at this point. I know whatever I do will never be enough for him. He’s getting worse all the time, so he’s frequently nasty and impossible to reason with.

I can’t cope with being in contact with him because it upsets me too much and I don’t even want to try any more.

I just want to sever all ties and get on with living my own life.

Liz

+- As a child of drunken parents, I know what it means to live in poverty (Paul)

I heard your organisation on Radio 4 today.

I just wanted to write and say how pleased I am that there is someone to care.

As a child of drunken parents, I know what it means to live in poverty with parents who spend first on alcohol and cigarettes, and then think of their children. Although junior school was supportive, it was pretty difficult going through senior school in the 60s like that. I wish you every success.

Paul

+- You are not your parent’s mistakes; you are the successor of them (Carly)

My Mum is an alcoholic; I am a child of an alcoholic. But I am also a woman, who likes the X factor, the colour purple, has a penchant for kissing and shopping and has a crush on Alan Hansen.

So here is where we are now. My mum has just been screwed over by someone, some dodgy agency, so no longer owns her house. She lies in her sodden clothes, for days on end, on her stained marked sofa. She lives in a small terraced house with no carpets. She has no money, no friends, no sense of reality and no direction. Soon it’ll be her 50th, but what has she got to celebrate?

The thing is, after all my reading, soul searching, googling, talking, crying, and hurting myself, I have slowly accepted, no one can sort you out, apart from yourself. People can support, influence, assist and inspire, but you’ve got to want to do it, be motivated, and want to change. But in her case nothing motivates her, not even her kids. I ask her what will help her. Her response, ‘Your Dad’. He died seven years ago.

Alcohol is her friend, her escapism, her crux and her excuse. Sometimes I wish she was the silent drunk, maybe even the violent drunk, but I know these fleeting thoughts would not be the answer. She has been lost for a long time. But you get to see glimmers of her, when the acting drops. But then I realise, we are merely the audience, watching this tragedy unfold. We have seen this film so many times; we know the lines off by heart. But it still hurts.

I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t understand why she is still alive. If she hates life so much, why do this to herself and her family. I’ve been angry at her for so long, especially when she would go on a bender, and then everyone would welcome her back. I didn’t. How could she sleep? Continue on as normal, when she was wrecking so many people’s lives.

I am very open and honest with my friends about her situation, about the realities of it. Perhaps sometimes too open, but my friends use the information and humour me. That’s the way I like it.

Of-course her alcohol I believe, has had a profound effect on my life. I suffered low self-esteem, a lack of sense of self, self-harm, an eating disorder, attempted suicide, anxiety, and depression and welcomed an abusive lover into my life. But would I still have done this is she was sober? Who knows? All I’ve got is my experience.

However, I’m still here. With a bag of experiences, a University degree and a future as bright as the sky. I remember when I was at my lowest ebb, I got angry with the people that looked on the bright side, ‘always look on the bright side of life,’ Rubbish. ‘Things aren’t as bad as what they seem.’ Shut up. ‘Things will get better, they always do.’ Anger. I was confused, I did want to get better, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t want my history, I didn’t want this pain, and I didn’t want this. Who really was I?

Then looking at statistics on the internet, I knew due to my past I was prone this, prone to that, had more of a chance of this. Negative, negative, negative. But that was my comfort. But I’m over it now.

I’ve recognized where I was going wrong, this is a part of me, but it doesn’t have to hold me back. I read recently, we are here to learn to love more. Each experience helps us learn, grow to bring more love into our lives. Don’t get me wrong if someone told me that a couple of years ago; I’d given them a right look. But now, it’s not as though I would want to go through it all again, or make my situation anyone else’s reality, it’s part of me.

As I’ve discovered from friends of the family, Mums drinking started when we were young. So it has always been in the background, like a misty cloud over our lives.

As I reached to my teenage years, and the drinking escalated, my humour distanced me from talking about the real issues of my life. The hormones kicked in, and the negative thoughts were a regular guest in my already confused mind. Then I became suicidal, but I couldn’t tell anyone, as I felt they all had more important things to worry about. I attempted suicide, but no one knew until my twenties. But I survived. I live, as they say, to tell the tale.

So here I am, with 3 amazing brothers and sisters, a good job, a better attitude and hope. I still yearn for the day when I can say and think, I’ve had a bad day, I’m in a bad mood and I’m not happy. Not because of depression, my past, just because I’ve got a cold, I’ve had an argument with my boyfriend and I didn’t sleep very well. Normal stuff. I’ve started to engage in real relationships, talk to people, openly and feel more comfortable with my feelings. I’m excited about life.

I don’t hate my Mum anymore, I’m over the anger, I think what prevails is an overwhelming sense of sadness. She didn’t have an easy life, both her parents died when she was young, she suffered low self-esteem, anorexia and my Dad suffered 4 heart attacks before his fatal one in his forties. She fought all her life, and I don’t know if she strong enough anymore. But I will learn, and not be the sequel.

My advice, for all of you going through a similar situation out there is to talk about it. Please don’t keep it in; it’s not your fault. You are the innocent party.

You are not your parent’s mistakes; you are the successor of them. Learn to love more. Hopefully one day you will see your experience, as a horrible event in your life, which YOU overcame.

Good luck.

Carly

+- Mum’s 70th birthday (Gill)

17th September 2007

Dear Mum

I thought I would put pen to paper instead of talking or nagging as you call it! I feel so very sorry for both of us at this time of writing. You drinking again and me trying to hide from it – you. I just don’t feel I can watch you self destructing – is your life so bad that you can do this to yourself? You know you could have so much more, but don’t give yourself the chance to find out…

Last year was probably the best year we have had together for years, I really enjoyed getting to know the old mum I knew and loved. I really enjoyed going to France and to Brighton and had hoped this might have happened again this year. Last year at my sister-in-law’s wedding so many people complimented you and me on how well and so smartly dressed you looked, albeit very slim, but glamorous. Most probably the most glamorous oldie there! You looked so smart in your lovely striped jacket – I was very proud. What has happened to you this year? You are not bothering are you? You have not had your hair done in several months and you have lost more weight which you can ill afford.

I know you had a big shock when your best friend and my aunt died, but this is a fact of life. We will all miss her lovely smile, her laughter and her positiveness about everything. But more so, her husband and ‘the boys’ will miss her more. Perhaps we take these things for granted that our favourite people/things will always be around us. This is just not the case, things change and always have done, a fact of life. Like I really hoped you had changed last year, turned your life around again. Each day I saw you progress – ‘one day at a time’ goes the old adage. But, yes I did see you changing and I loved that change. I really miss our going into town and to the garden centres and our curries. Do you know you have only been to our house two or three times this year? How does this seem to you?

I know you cancelled your memory appointment. How do you think this made me feel?  The old saying goes ‘you hurt the ones you really love’. Well no more a truer word spoken, because at the moment next to you, I am probably the most miserable person around – I am crying as I write this, but you can’t see my tears.

I don’t want you to end up in some horrible old peoples’ home, sitting there in the corner demented and drugged up. Yes that’s what they do to old people to ensure they don’t give their carers any hassle. Mum you are only 70 and not ready for pushing up the daisies yet. You were going to have a birthday party this year weren’t you? Instead you have found yourself spending your ‘milestone’ on your own. I don’t want this for you, nor do any of your family. It doesn’t have to be this way.

If you seek help for your memory, it is highly likely that there is medication you can take to slow the progression. I don’t know what else to do to help you.

I have tried so hard to spend as much time with you, but at this point I feel rejected, dejected and subjected to/by so much pain. There is not an hour in the day when I am not thinking of you. I am scared for you and how I may one day find you. If it is me that is. Is this what you really want for your only daughter and son? I have already found you on the floor unable to move – how would you have felt if you saw your mum/my nan in the same position? Think about it…

You have two lovely cats that need caring for, they may live for 15 years or so, but at this rate you won’t even see them get to be teenagers let alone middle or old age. Mum, I have lots of bad memories of your drinking, but I have good memories when you weren’t and this keeps me going.

Some of Dad’s last words to me were ‘Please look after your mother’. I never realised what he meant until last year when you came out of that place. You were so ill, I thought you were not going to pull out of it, but you did. I felt so protective of you when you came out. You may not remember, but I saw you about 3-4 times a week bringing you little meals to try and tempt you to eat. I know your appetite is not good, but alcohol is not a substitute for this and as you know will make things worse. Never mind what you thought about dad, but feel that I am letting him down because I am not seeing you and making sure things are OK with you. I know they are not OK.

You really shocked me the other Saturday when I saw you almost fall into your armchair.  You looked so awful with your black eye – again blaming this one on one of the cats. You know why though don’t you. Each time you drink, a small piece of your body/mind/spirit dies in the bottom of the whisky glass. If you have any strength left, try to give up the whisky.

I will write to you again soon, because I don’t feel I can speak/see you at present. I cannot accept your drinking any more, but still live in the hope that you will stop. You know I have offered to take you to AA and pick you up until you can drive. There are probably other avenues/ways to help you, but you must ask for this help. It is not for me to make your choices, it must come from you.

I hope you will keep these letters for as long as you live, so that if you pull out of that rut you have found yourself in again you can read them.

Love as always

Your daughter

Gill

+- The fall (Gill)

Dear Mum

The story continues …

As you probably won’t remember our conversations from the last couple of days I have decided to put these and what has happened over the last few days in a letter.  Hopefully you will read and possibly reread what I have put down.  You seem to be suffering from lack of memory anyway, so this will help you to remember.

Tuesday 2nd May

Last Tuesday afternoon I rang you only to hear that you were expecting the doctor to arrive.  Most people would be worried to hear this in its self, as usually most children are as concerned for their parent’s welfare as their parents are for their own.  You told me that your ‘dizziness’ had become much worse than usual and you were hoping the doctor could do something for it.  I asked you to phone me when the doctor had been to let me know what he had said.  You phoned me back just before I left work and said that the doctor had arranged for the chemist to drop you down a prescription for a possible inner ear infection.

You also told me that the doctor told you that on no account were you to drive your car! I was dubious that it was an ear infection as you have been suffering this dizziness for some time now.  I was happy with your answer and told you I would speak to you the next day.

Wednesday 3rd May

I rang you to ask what you wanted to do that evening as you know we have the routine of seeing each on a Wednesday evening, sometimes to have a takeaway or go out for something to eat. You seemed better Wednesday lunchtime when I phoned you, but you were then unsure as to whether you wanted to go out or stay in.  You told me you had been out in the car to pick up your prescription from the chemist.  I said that you had told me that the chemist was supposed to have already dropped the prescription down to you.  You told me that the chemist had only given you one tablet.  I thought this strange at the time, but gave you the benefit of the doubt – in other words I believed and trusted you.  You broke that trust.  I asked you to ring me before 5.00pm that evening to let me know if you wanted me to bring fish and chips around or for us to take a run in the car to get them.  You said you would, but didn’t.  I went home with my husband and not long after I got in, I tried phoning you.  I must have tried about 6 or 7 times, but no answer.  I told my husband that I was going straight round to see you as I suspected the worst had happened.

Not quite, you were not dead.  I tried ringing the doorbell a couple of times and then went around the back of the house.  The window was open.  I went back around the front and looked more closely into the lounge.  I could just see your arm and head as you were lying on the floor.

I ran across to your neighbour and told him you were lying on the floor and I did not know what to expect.  I feared the worst. You will never know what goes through someone’s mind when they think their mum might be lying dead on the floor.  He came across with me and helped me through the window.  We ran into the lounge and both saw you lying on the floor.  You were lying face down in a very strange position with your legs crossed up against the door frame.  I thought you had broken your back or neck as you could not move by yourself. When we spoke to you, you started moaning saying that your arm was broken.  At this point I still did not realise you had been drinking.

I immediately called 999 for the ambulance to come.  You were saying ‘Don’t get the ambulance’.  They arrived within what seemed about five minutes.  One of them at that point smelled the alcohol and asked you if you had been drinking.  The blood in my veins froze.  I could not believe that you had had a drink after a supposed 16 months of sobriety.  I wish I had had my camera to show you what a state you were in.  The two paramedics, neighbour and myself managed to get you on to the pouffe.  Your legs were all bent and you could not stand.

Three times you told us you wanted to go home!  You were home, except you did not know this was where you were.  I started to lock up the house, all the time looking for the cats to ensure that they did not get locked in.  As I was looking for them I saw the empty quarter litre whisky bottle between the sofa and the armchair.  I don’t think it was even the brand that you usually drank.  Thinking back, you must have gone to get the whiskey Wednesday morning before you spoke to me, but then you were lying to me again weren’t you?

I snatched the bottle up and showed it to both the paramedics and the neighbour.  I pushed past them and rammed the bottle into my glove compartment hoping it could be used in evidence or something later.  (I was to retrieve it and leave it with you on the Friday as I left). At that point I was working on adrenaline and sheer anger was driving me forward.  I went with you in the ambulance and one of the paramedics was asking lots of questions, luckily one of us could answer them.  He could see from my face and by the way that I spoke that I was furious.

We got to the hospital and you were connected to a heart monitor etc. and you were moaning loudly due to the pain of the suspected broken arm.  At one point, I even told you ‘Suffer it, you brought this on yourself’. You kept saying ‘what about my cats’ and ‘I want to go home’.  I told you to shut up several times.  You were making things much worse for me.  You were eventually given morphine for the pain and you were taken for an x-ray.  As I was sitting outside waiting for you, a woman who was sat with her two children asked me what was wrong.  I said you had a suspected broken arm.  She asked why you looked so drugged up.  Do you know, I thought about this for a second or two?  You know I had two answers forming in my mind.  Do I tell her the truth that I had just found my mother lying blind drunk unable to get up by herself or do I say that the morphine she has just had for the pain relief has just affected her.

I decided to lie for you and told her it was the morphine.  I decided that this was the last time I would lie for you or your alcoholic escapades.  Had the two children not been there, I know my answer would have been the former.  I waited there in that hospital for 3 ½ hours.  You did have a broken upper arm.  You kept telling me to go home.  You did not and don’t realise that when you are taken into hospital with the person who called the ambulance, this person has to make all the decisions and abide by the hospital rules.  This meant that I had to wait and see if the doctor would accept you into the orthopaedic ward for the night.  I prayed this would be the case.

They asked me if you had someone to look after you if you went home that night.  I said no.  They also asked me if you could go home with me.  I said no.  I had picked you up from these alcoholic traumas all my life and did not want to continue on that course.  I wonder now why I helped to save you that time you took the overdose, only to see you continue on this self destructive path.  I was eventually told you could stay.  My heart leapt.  It meant I could go home to my husband, the one good constant person in my life.  It also meant I did not have to worry about you and that you were being looked after by somebody else.  I did not have to worry for a few short hours/days.  At that point I did not know how long you would be in hospital.  I did not eat that evening as by the time I had got to your home and seen to your cats it was quarter past eleven at night.

I did not visit you again in hospital.  I had made up my mind at that point what I was going to do.

Friday 4th May

You phoned me Friday morning saying you were allowed home.  You said ‘I don’t suppose you can come and pick me up can you?  Oh no you are working’.  I think the penny dropped as to what kind of situation you now found yourself in.  I told you to get a taxi.  You said you had no money.  I told you that you would have to get the money when you got home.  I also told you that your key was with your neighbours.  You said ‘Bye’ and put the phone down.  You phoned and left message on my work answer phone saying you could not get an answer from the neighbours.  I phoned you back and you told me that you couldn’t be picked up until 1.00pm – my lunch hour.   You were even selfish enough to ask me to pick you up two packets of cigarettes, which like a fool I did.  You do not know now how that made me feel.

In fact I wonder if you can sympathise with anyone. I told you that I would pick you up outside the side of the hospital.  You eventually came down in a wheelchair and looked like death.  I took you home and explained all what I have written in this letter.  I told you that you were lucky it was on one of the days I was seeing you.  I also told you that had it been three days or more the cats would begin to be very hungry and would start looking for alternative food sources.  Yes you.  If you were dead they would turn to your own flesh for food.  I am not sure you believe this, but it is fact.  As I told you at the beginning of the letter that you probably won’t remember our conversations from that afternoon, so I have made it easier for you.

I stayed with you for about an hour and you told me I was going to be late back to work.  I told you to think about this and that it was not my fault if I was going to be late back to work.  I also told you that I had arranged ‘meals on wheels’ to visit you.  You told me several times that you did not want them.

How much more selfish can you get mum.  I told you that it was not for your benefit, but for mine. I said that ‘I was not doing anymore running around for you.’  I needed to know that you would get at least three or four hot meals a week from a regular source for at least a couple of week whilst your arm recovers.

You have not been bothering to cook for yourself recently have you?  You usually survive on cereal, soup and toast.  How do you think this makes me feel that you are ‘surviving’ and not ‘thriving’ as you should now be.  This is the problem mum, you do not think about the consequences of anything before you say or do anything – it is always about you.  You told me not to tell your sister and brother-in-law as you could not bear what you call their ‘nagging’.

Well this ‘nagging’ as you call it is the sound of concerned people.  You forgot in your drunken state that you spoke to your sister on Wednesday afternoon so they knew even before me.  Your best friend who was diagnosed with cancer was so concerned about you too that she rang your sister to see if they had heard from you as she was used to seeing you on a Thursday afternoon.  Yes mum, count the people up till now who you have hurt and had worrying about you.  This is not to mention the inconvenience to the hospital staff who incidentally deal with drunken cases all the time, so it is now just run of the mill to them.  At this stage I have not mentioned my brother who did not know anything until I phoned him on Thursday evening.  He is at a disadvantage as he can’t just call round to see if you are OK because he lives away from us.

Saturday 5th May

I take time to go and get you some basic shopping items and spend time choosing some easy meals like tasty soups and ready to heat meals that I think that you will like to eat.  I spend an hour with you wondering if you really are appreciating my company.  I have already said that I doubt that I am being a good daughter to you, yes you really have me wondering this.  You told me that I was the perfect daughter.  I cannot see this as I am fast becoming numb to this and acting out of duty rather than the love I should feel.

Sunday 6th May

I phone you to see if you are OK and to see how you are coping.  You tell me the nurse has been again.  You also tell me that the next door neighbours have warmed up the soup I brought for you.  You say how kind they are, you do not know them well.  I say yet two more unsuspecting fools playing a part in your life.  The merry-go-round continues…

Monday 7th May (Bank Holiday)

The phone rings at 9.30 am.  It is you telling me you can’t get dressed.  You ask me if I was still in bed.  I was.  You say sorry.  But are you really sorry mum.  I get some tea-bags and a paper for you and bring it round.  You have not eaten anything since the soup yesterday afternoon.  I ask where two of the meals are I brought for you are and you tell me that you have put them in the freezer.  What bloody good are they in there?  I ask you if you have given up.  You tell me no.  I am beginning to wonder…

Yes you have done very well to remain sober for 16 months, but I hope that the events over the last few days will show you that you cannot drink again.  I have spoken to my brother in depth about how we feel.  We have both decided that if you drink again we will cut off all communication with you.  You will be on your own.  The problem is that if something like this happens again and we are not there to help, everyone will say ‘Poor woman, even her own children weren’t around to help her.’

They will think we must be bad evil people, but you know that is not true.  You will be OK as you will just be the poor alcoholic who died on her own.  So there you have it, the decision is yours.

I have phoned the doctor and made an appointment for you to go and see him.  He has suggested I bring you.  He will do tests on your ears for the ‘dizziness’ and is going to suggest you get some memory tests undertaken.  I suspect that you have the early onset of alcoholic dementia, but we will wait for the professional diagnosis.

Yours dutifully

Gill

+- The damage letter (Gill)

Sunday 23rd January 2006

… I have been asked to put together a ‘damage’ letter (slightly worried about what that means!) with some background history, my emotions and how my mum and dad’s (I think dad drank far too much too, but this isn’t about him at present) drinking has or is still effecting my life.  This is not going to be easy and will probably be one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

I hope mum will take this letter in the manner in which it is meant and that I have not or never will portion blame to either of my parents for anything that has happened in the past.  I say this again later.  I hope that it will help to help her on her road to become a recovering alcoholic and not a drinking one. I only want my mum to now start taking responsibility for her own destiny and begin to LIVE!

Well here goes.  I feel kind of in limbo at present.  A strange feeling, as I feel that mum’s life is now in two halves.  Her life before she admitted she had a drink problem and her life now being given the chance to get sober and start living again.  I have just started crying again.  I have done this a lot in the last year.

For the last year or so, I have been very angry and feeling much resentment towards mum as her drinking has gotten much worse.  I am trying to understand that it mostly isn’t a party for her either.  The drinking seems to have taken mum away and she seems a shadow of her former self.  She does not make contact with her friends anymore and I don’t think they do very often either.  She has become very reclusive.  Prior to mum going into rehab I had to detach from her after an incident that happened on August 10th of last year.  Not a memorable day for most, but it just happens to be my mum’s wedding anniversary.  Another excuse for a drink…

Soon after the family got together and went around to her home as a desperate attempt one Monday afternoon trying to make her see what her drinking was doing to us.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I said to mum that from my perspective she would have to choose between the drink and me.  She looked at me and said ‘I think I prefer the drink’.  Shortly after that I left with everyone else.  She did phone me a couple of times promising to give up drinking and said she could do it on her own.  We all knew she could not.  The rest of the family have seen and spoken to her less in the last year also.

I am so upset to think that the drink is taking away her memory, her looks and her personality and worse of all from me.  Mum is a very intelligent and funny lady with a warm sense of humour.  She played bridge well and did mental arithmetic.  She used to leave me standing when I tried to add up numbers in my head.  The drink is sadly putting paid to this.

I have felt very let down many times when phoning her and her slurring down the phone at me, or getting the answer phone message.  I have to say that the silence of the answering phone had become more preferable, but I had to weigh up the thought that she was probably just ‘non-corpus-mentis’ and not at the bottom of the stairs hurt or worse.

I cannot speak for my brother, but I know he felt the same.  I would get knots in my stomach before phoning her and feel physically sick if she picked up the phone whilst drinking.

I have also been round on several occasions in the last year and on one of these occasions I went to pick mum up to take her out for lunch and a trip to the garden centre.  When I arrived I realised that she had had a drink.  A hair of the dog.  There was no way I could take her out like that and I said very gently ‘Mum, I can’t do this’.  I got in my car and cried for the rest of the day.  I remember feeling such loss.

Another occasion I rushed around one Saturday after going to the gym and mum didn’t on this occasion answer the door.  This time I got angry and drove my car home very fast.  I went straight to the bathroom and screamed and shouted.  I did not come out for about an hour.  My husband begged me to come out and talk but I was so bloody angry and felt so let down again.

I have had many dreams about mum at night and in all of them she always has a glass of whiskey in her hand.  These dreams have ranged from fairly ordinary dreams to some that are not very nice.  Still crying.

There is not an hour in the day or a minute in the hour I am not thinking about mum and how I miss us going into town or to lunch or a visit to the garden centre or similar.  I just want the drinking to go away and leave my mum.  The drink is now more a part of mum than I am.

Christmas this year was not good.  I could not face mum and her drinking and so went to Guernsey with my husband for four days. Interesting.  I felt some guilt about this but knew I could not have spent Christmas with my husband’s side of the family and not seen my mum.  This was only the third Christmas in my life that I had not spent it with her.

They say that an alcoholic’s mind/memory goes whilst they are drinking, well the same goes for the worried people around them.  I feel very distracted a lot of the time which is spent worrying.  I have been pulled up at work for silly little things and know that sometimes this is due to this distraction. I have mistakenly thought that it is the parent’s job to worry about their parents but I cannot remember a time when I have not worried about mum.

I hope this letter comes some way to explaining a bit about how I feel about mum’s drinking and how it has or is still affecting me.

Monday 24th January 2006

Now for some history.  Mum was married to my Dad some 40 years until he passed away just over four years ago.  I think they must have had good times, but dad was a possessive man and mum was very gregarious and outgoing.  This caused a lot of arguments between them in as far as dad thought it was fine to go out drinking on a Friday night, but mum should stay at home with the children playing the ‘good wife’.  Mum of course who enjoyed dancing and also seeing friends resented this a lot.

Christmas’s caused a lot of problems with this as dad always managed to engineer a good night out on Christmas Eve which sometimes included part of the morning.  This also was cause for my mum to get upset, quite rightly as she had to drive around retrieving our presents whilst neighbours looked after us.

Most of our early Christmas’s were lovely with lots of family parties to go to, but was not long before Mum started drinking a lot over Christmas.  These memories have stayed with my brother and myself.  At first it was mum is doing ‘her thing’ again, but after a while it became very upsetting with us stuck in the middle.

When we were at home and mum had been drinking, she used to lock herself in the toilet, which of course was a cause for concern for my dad, brother and me.  We were so afraid that she would fall and knock herself out on the sink or bath.  I remember dad hammering on the door and us pleading for her to unlock it and come out, but of course she was too drunk or asleep to do so.  This happened on many occasions and we were always very unhappy about it as you can imagine, we were very young maybe 8, 9 10 a bit older.

Mum and dad had many rows and she used to get very angry with my dad and several things happened at Christmas which are still very vivid in both my brothers and my mind.  On one occasion dad was tending the fire and as they were rowing she poured a whole plastic carton of salt over his head.  I think that was the year the Christmas tree (which was fully decorated) got thrown through the blinds and window into the front garden.  Once again we were very young and this has stayed in both of our memories not fading in the length of time.

When mum got drunk at Christmas we were asked to stay over to whoever’s party it was.  She would fall asleep and we would either go to bed or sleep on the sofa depending on where we were.  Dad would take mum home and she would ask where we were.  We of course were happy to stay over as the atmosphere at home was not very nice!  She would make dad come out and wake us up, pick us up and bring us home again.  I remember feeling bad about this.

On another occasion I remember again the rowing and my brother and I both very small were sitting on the stairs and mum upstairs and dad downstairs.  Mum was shouting go downstairs to your father and dad was shouting go and sit with your mother.  As you can well imagine we were understandably very upset and scared.

More rows and several large objects thrown by mum at my father.  We were older by this time and wiser to it.  Two of these objects were rather large brass flamingo birds, they ended up in the front garden.  I recall the conversation with her friend on the phone ‘saying two birds had flown through the window’, her friend saying that that was strange and that birds did not usually fly into the house through glass windows’.   She admitted to her friend that they flown out of the window and not in!

She had another friend in the early days (I think she was quite unhappy sometimes in those days) who used to live opposite us.  My brother and I remember them getting the Martini and lemonades out in the morning whilst dad was at work.  This was at 11.00 o’clock!  They did on some occasions take us out with her daughter in the car and whilst we played on the swings they drank in bars.  This is not very vivid in my memory, but has stayed in my brothers and the friend’s daughter’s memory.

I have had large rows with both my parents, but I think the worst row was with my mother several years ago.  After we had argued, I did not speak to her for 5 weeks.  Again she had made me very hurt and angry.  I don’t think I deserved the treatment I got.

Mum was very slim and glamorous and very beautiful, think Liz Taylor or Audrey Hepburn beautiful.  She is still a very attractive lady.  Dad did not like her wearing makeup or nice clothes.  I think he thought that she was going to go off with someone or something like that.  He was quite a placid man until riled and then he would lose his temper too.

Mum used to go to an art class, it was escape for her I suppose as dad still remained very jealous.  These were not happy times for my brother and me, I was about 13 or 14 and my brother is just under 3 years younger than me.  One night my mum was caught drunk in charge driving back from the class.  Although she was just over the limit, she had to go to court and we remember the police bringing her home.  Once again we were both very worried for her.

Mum is a very poor sleeper and she uses sleeping pills to help her sleep.  In those days (1970’s), the sleeping pills were very strong.  She used to take something called Mandrax (elephant killers!)  She was dropped home from the art class on one occasion and she was very drunk.  As per usual she took her sleeping pills.  I think she must have fallen asleep and woke up again.  She had forgotten that she had taken the pills and of all horrors she took more.  Coupled with the drink, this soon sent her into a very deep sleep.

I remember dad coming through to my room and waking me up saying ‘Gill, wake up I think your mother’s dead’.  He was beside himself.  I rushed through with dad, my brother stayed asleep during this awful time.  Mum was not moving and was like a rag doll.  I wanted to call the doctor, but dad kept saying no.  I remember putting a mirror to her mouth and there was no mist on it.  She was close to death.

We shook her, we smacked her, but still she would not wake up.  It was very early in the morning 2.00 am or more.  We continued to pummel her and eventually she made this horrible moaning noise I suppose you could liken it to a death rattle.  She came around very slowly and dad and I were soon able to sit her up.  I still wanted to ring the doctor but I think dad was scared too, maybe he was embarrassed I don’t know.  I know it was an hour or so later, this too is still very vivid in my memory.  Even the colour of the bedroom is still there after all this time, one wall purple and the others white with lilac sprays of flowers.

We soon managed to get her down the stairs and out in to the fresh air.  We walked her up and down the estate for at least an hour in the cold night air to bring her round.  We did so successfully.  I don’t know how much of that mum remembers as it was our nightmare and not hers.  I had school that next day. I was 13.

I once again do not blame either one of my parents for anything that has happened in the past and I only hope that mum can begin to understand how we felt.

My parents both worked very hard for both of us, they often struggled with money, but we never went without.  We always had lovely clothes, full school uniform and mum always cooked a proper meal for us.

There were lots of lovely gifts at Christmas and mum always ensured that both of us were treated exactly the same with the exact amount of money spent on both of us down the last penny!  We always sat down together at meal times.  We did have many lovely days in between these difficult times.  We spent many great days down the beach.

My mum had a very good sense of humour and on one of those occasions we were down on the beach with my dad, my aunt and uncle, my brother and my cousin.  It started to rain, so action stations.  My dad and uncle decided to build a fort!   This fort consisted of all the sun chairs, the lilo, blow up boat and towels.

We all ate our lunch under it.  Mum was soon desperate to go to the loo.  In those days trendy ladies wore their hair in a bee- hive and as my mum was well in the fashion stakes she had this hairdo.  She did not want to get it wet and so looked around for something to cover her hair up.  She spied my dad’s white Y-fronts and put them on her head.  We fell about laughing as she made her way down to the sea.  Yes I can remember very funny times too and there were more of those of course.

I hope mum, that you won’t be angry or upset with me sharing this, but I am hoping that by me being brave enough to admit things that have happened and how I am feeling, it will help you to come out with things by your own admission.  I have to do this for us, as I think you know that this is the last chance.  You must begin to take responsibility, but mum you are not in this on your own, your family are willing and praying that you will soon become a recovering alcoholic with a life worth living

I love you mum and will try almost anything to help you recover.  I only hope you realise this and talk to me again after this.

Gill

Feeling embarrassed, guilty or ashamed or less important than other people

+- Trying to usher my friends out as quickly as possible as they giggled at my drunken parents (Rebecca)

At the age of about 4 I idolised my dad, every day he’d return from work and we would take a little walk to the shop. As we walked he would hold my small hand within his and we’d chat away, mostly I recall it would be me counting down the days to my next birthday. The sky was dark and the weather cold but all I remember was a sense of warmth, being with my big tall dad and just chatting happily.

Every evening we’d reach the shop and he would buy me a bottle of pop and himself a bottle of gin. To me at the unassuming age of four, this was normal. I didn’t think anything strange at buying a bottle of gin every day. As I got older my dad’s drink of choice changed to vodka. It was between the ages of 7 and 10 that I remember the first feelings of embarrassment at seeing my dad and often my mum too, drunk during the afternoon on a weekend. I can still feel that sense of dread at coming in from playing outside with a friend to see both my parents slouched on the sofa merrily slurring their words not able to string a coherent sentence together, trying to usher my friend out as quickly as possible as they giggled at my drunken parents.

My parents continued to drink, but my dad had that hunger for his next drop, even at the age of 11 we would still walk to the shop together where he would buy a bottle of vodka nicely wrapped up in paper placed in a bag with 4 cans of beer. His problem with alcohol became most apparent to me after my parents separated. I guess I was older and was starting to gain a wider understanding of the world so could understand the issues more clearly. I really did love my dad and would look forward to my weekend visits to London to see him. On one visit I could tell he was at a loss at how to entertain a 13 year old girl so he brought City Limits to see what was on in the area. We ended up going to see The Rocky Horror Show. Neither of us knew what to expect. I could sense his discomfort as he sat beside me as Frank’n’Furter strutted across stage wiggling his hips singing ‘in just seven days, I’m gonna make you a man’. The show was amazing and we both had a giggle about it. That is a really happy memory for me, sharing the excitement of a live stage show with my dad.

On one of my next visits to London to see my dad he didn’t show up at our meeting place and I can remember my mum’s anger, she repeatedly tried calling him but there was no answer. I was so disappointed, but also worried. Where was he, what had happened? We stayed the night with my mum’s friend and the following morning my mum took me to my dad’s flat. She didn’t give up on ringing his doorbell until he answered. How long we were there I can’t remember. Eventually he came to the door and let us in. The smell as the door opened was rancid. I’d never seen mess like it before, rubbish everywhere, knee high. I remember going into the kitchen to find a sink full of filthy mouldy dishes piled as high as you could imagine. This to me was his lowest point. He looked broken, washed out, ashen, and incoherent. My mum insisted that he wash and meet us in an hours’ time at the pub down the road. In retrospect not the best meeting place for an alcoholic but maybe my mum thought that might motivate him to meet us. I was so devastated to see my dad at such a low point. I can’t remember much more other than him meeting us and having a pint. My mum didn’t leave me with him, she took me home and called his parents and sisters and told them how low a point he was at. His family came to clear his flat and move him up to North Wales to live with his parents so they could care for him.

On my first visit to see him once he’d moved, I remember the feelings of excitement at seeing my dad again, but also worry at not knowing what to expect. He was drunk! I remember sitting in the garden with him and my Namps (Grandad), it was a beautiful clear summers day, the weather warm with a gentle breeze, we sat in the garden and my dad looked up to the sky and started laughing, ‘there’s a pig in the sky Becca look up there, it’s flying’, my lovely Namps just gently said, ‘pull yourself together Tony’.

On another visit I remember my dad being so drunk, my aunt who was also visiting pulling him aside and saying you need to sort this out, Becca doesn’t visit often this is your time with her, you have 24 hours to sort yourself out. The next day they took me to the mountain zoo and we had a lovely day, while my dad tried to sober up. My dad tried so hard not to drink while I was there and I know he found it hard and I’m sure he secretly gave in to his demons. He couldn’t sleep at night so would be found in the kitchen pottering around making himself beans on toast. The kitchen was always a mess in the morning from his nightly feasts.

Sadly my grandparents passed away and my dad moved into a flat on his own. I spoke to my dad often on the phone and he would sometimes visit me. As I got older I found it harder and harder to deal with his problems and for some time I turned my back on him. This makes me feel so selfish and sad, if I’d been there for him could he have battled his demons head on? When I was 21 I got in contact with my dad and made plans to see him again. I was so excited at rebuilding our relationship and hoped that perhaps we could fight his addiction together. Heartbreakingly he died before I saw him . He was found dead by the police after his aunt had tried contacting him with no answer. He had an abyss on his liver.

The pain at hearing my dad had died was immeasurable, my world stopped but the world continued to turn. It will be twenty years since he died next year and I still miss and think of him regularly now.

RIP Dad xxxx

Rebecca

+- I first became aware of my father’s drinking when I was 11 (Jay)

I had sung in a small school choir in a theatre production. After the performance at a theatre in a not so nice part of an inner city, on a Saturday night, my father who was supposed to pick me up, never turned up. Home was 30 minutes away. I had never used public transport alone. All the other boys had been picked up, but the mum of one of these other boys noticed I was waiting and waited with me and her son. We waited and waited. She checked the pub across the road- no sign. Eventually she called my mother who came and collected me.

My father was picked up by the police whilst drunk at the wheel, later that night. It was the first of several drink driving offences. I never spoke about what had happened with the other boy when I saw him at school the following week. But 25 years later I thanked his mother for her kindness that night. He then revealed that his father had also had problems with alcohol and this had been one of the reasons for his parents’ marriage falling apart. He said it had caused him unhappiness at school. Perhaps if I could have opened up more at that time, we could have helped each other more.

My father’s drinking continued and still continues though to a lesser extent. He drank in binges and was never physically dependent. I try not to think about it now, but the worry, uncertainty, embarrassment and shame you have when a parent drinks is hard to describe. Being picked up after school, hoping that he would not be drunk. Being left waiting in the dark, alone at night after all the other boys have been picked up. The fear of being driven in a car by someone who is drunk. The shame when your father turns up drunk to your school prize giving where you are getting a prize. The sniggers and snide remarks the next day from other pupils and staff even.

And the irony is that I had what by most accounts would be a privileged childhood. My father was a doctor, I went to public school and then university to also become a doctor. I spent part of my career working with other doctors helping them with alcohol problems. Like many of them, my father faced the GMC because of his drinking. I kept my own experiences tightly bound yet always accessible to me.

The effects of my father’s drinking, as well as the above, were feelings of low self-esteem. It created great insecurity in me. As a child I always wondered why my father would drink as he had a wife and 2 children who loved him. My escape was university, new friends with whom I could speak about what has happened (I only told my best friend from school about my father’s drinking 7 years after we left) and putting distance between me and home. It still rears its head- a few years ago when my father came to visit me in the city where I had moved to, he got drunk on 2 nights in a row. Both times he was picked up by the police. That feeling of worry, shame, anxiety, concern for your parent and utter rage and anger against them all at the same time, is hard to describe.

I have put my father in a distant place for some years, held there by my anger and resentment (he never once ever apologised). But I can see that that is self defeating. He succumbed to some great pressures he was under at the time. He had choices and made bad ones repeatedly. He lacked insight into his drinking for many years. He was an addict. But my hatred just made me feel worse.

As an adult with a loving supportive wife who has helped me to start speaking more about my experiences and also as a father of 2 small boys, I know that acceptance and forgiveness can be the only real solutions. I am conscious of the generational legacy of addiction and the high risk of passing it on. I watch myself. For a long time I never wanted to be anything like my father. But that cannot be. We are alike but different. I can see that now the positives that he gave me in my makeup and in life. But I am my own man. And I am determined to never let my boys face anything similar in their lives.

(Jay)

+- Never feel guilty for your parent’s drinking. It isn’t your fault (Sonia)

I’m 31 and grew up with an alcoholic mother.

She battled with this disease since I was born after she suffered from post natal depression.

I will never get to the bottom of the real reason she drank as she died in May this year. Not directly alcohol related, but it was a contributing factor.

I never knew how I would feel the day I lost her as our relationship was turbulent – I think that would be the best way to describe it. I miss her terribly.

All I can advise anyone reading this as a child of an alcoholic is to never feel guilty for your parent’s drinking. It isn’t your fault.

They may say the most hurtful, spiteful things when they are drunk, but that isn’t them talking. It was like something used to take over my Mum and someone else was speaking to me.

All I can say is as long as you know you have tried your best and done all you can to be there for them, that’s all you can do.

You can’t change them, you can’t make them stop. There is only one person that can do that – and that is the alcoholic.

It’s a real shame that there wasn’t information and forums like this when I was growing up. It was quite unheard of. Alcoholism wasn’t spoken about. It’s more common than you may realise – so don’t be ashamed. x

Sonia

Keeping secrets and feeling isolated and alone

+- My maternal grandparents asked me ’’what is wrong in your house’’ when I said Mum drank they emphatically said ‘’no, no, no she doesn’t’- you shouldn’t say such wicked things’’ (Julie)

I was born in 1963 hence I’m now a 52 year old woman who was brought up in an Alcoholic family with no help and whereby I could tell no one and besides who would listen?- so I am delighted that NACOA exists and is available confidentially for others. I thought I was the only one this had ever happened to.

I do not recall when I was fully aware of my Mothers drinking particularly (my Father was a heavy drinker too but cared for us when he was sober). I recall her being drunk in the day taking us (my younger brother and I) somewhere in the car when I was aged 6 ish and she was stopped by the Police at a road block and she had bubble gum to hide the smell of sherry she had been drinking.
My parents rowed continually -everything my Father did was wrong he didn’t try, he tried too much, he was stupid he was wonderful, he was violent, he was her saviour – we never knew what to expect – only to agree. They enjoyed drinking together.

In 1975 we moved away from close family and it worsened – the house was filthy, there was often a distinct lack of food and she smelt horrible- all kind of sour and sweet at the same time. Dad worked away in Scotland (leaving us with her for days at a time on our own) to make some money to try and make her happy – this was wrong too.

She attacked him with a knife when we were about 12 and 8 respectively and stabbed him in his back, we screamed to warn him but it was too late. He pushed her and she stumbled hitting her head, we left her there and were told to go to bed. She woke, and staggered to the nearest phone box ringing the Police saying Dad had hit her. They duly arrived claimed it was a ‘domestic’ didn’t come in to the house but spoke to Dad on the doorstep and told them to ‘’sort things out’’.
Nights were spent listening to them waiting for the next time.

Coming home from school was dreadful – you’d walk home wondering what mess she was in, and what you would have to do to keep the peace and try and make things normal. You dreaded Parents evening in case other people found out what she was really like and the last thing you wanted was your friends knowing. She continued to drive and we dreaded being made to get in the car with her. Once I refused and grabbed her arms telling her she was drunk – she bruised instantly and when Dad came back he told me off as she had shown him what I had done to her. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t stick up for me.

I took charge of washing up, ironing, cleaning, cooking, hiding bottles, replacing gin with water and so on. Some days she would want to talk and try and explain it was Dad who made her drink – I was made to go to AA classes with her which I hated – she even drove to them and Dad paid for numerous repairs to other people’s cars.

I realise now she was very spoilt and was an attention seeker, if she wasn’t drunk – she was ill, and we spent hours at a time helping out to make her life easier or at the hospital with various illnesses often many were never founded but many meant she had the attention she craved and was told it was my Father that was the problem not her- and this made her actions justified in her mind.

When I was about 14 she first tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose. She failed – I climbed in through the bedroom window and called an ambulance as Dad was away I don’t recall what happened – I just didn’t want our neighbours to know. I remember going to see her in hospital (I guess it would be called rehab now) while she was dried out in a mental hospital which had scary patients in. But I had hope at last – we could be a normal family – she promised she would be normal again and we believed it and we were happy. It lasted about 2 months and I knew instantly on arriving home one day that she wasn’t keeping her promise.

2 years later she tried suicide again and nearly succeeded.

I recall taking my Brother to an orthodontist appointment and being asked where my parents were – I told the receptionist that she was drunk and Dad was away – and then instantly regretted it – I still recall the woman’s name now. She said I had to tell someone – I didn’t but I lived in fear that she would and that my Dad would hit me for telling someone – he was handy with his fists – I guess stress played a part but it was never my Brother he hit.

I was taking my O levels (GCSEs nowadays) and she was rushed into hospital by ambulance – we were lucky she recovered although I confess to wanting her to die so often so that we could have a stable family – even if it did mean more responsibility for me I knew I could cope and Dad and my Brother would be happy again.

Finally at school after a night at the hospital and having tried to keep everything quiet, a teacher spoke to me sharply and told me off about something trivial (being late I think) I cracked and started to cry. He realised it wasn’t like me and I was taken to his office where I told him everything. It was such a relief to have finally told someone out there who knew what I was going through and seemed to care and wanted to help.

I was asked to report in to see him daily – just so he could keep an eye on things but I swore him to secrecy as Dad had told us we would be put in care if anyone found out. My maternal grandparents asked me ’’what is wrong in your house’’ when I said Mum drank they emphatically said ‘’no no no she doesn’t’- you shouldn’t say such wicked things’’

I passed 9 O Levels somehow and later 4 A levels – I think I was trying to make them happy, I left for University in Edinburgh and never felt so lonely – I was worrying how they would cope without me – to hold it together – but they did for another few years.

I graduated after 5 years and then married moving some 250 miles away from them.

On a visit home to see them once she dramatically threw things ( 4 dozen eggs I recall) at my Dad and I, he left her then and there, came home to my house and stayed for a week saying he couldn’t cope any longer after over 27 years of marriage.

Eventually he met someone else and married her, leaving Mum on her own and again unable to cope.

She had an affair with a much younger man who was married and she gave him money. She eventually moved to live near me citing being unable to look after the house on her own.
She continued to drink. Meanwhile I married, had 2 children of my own over the next 5 years and I vowed I would never ever make them go through what I did.

I wanted them to have a care-free childhood – to be children for as long as they wanted and not to have the responsibility of looking after someone who was supposed to look after you -and by whom you were supposed to be adored by.

Aged 70 she was still never well, and the house was dirty and she was unkempt. I cleaned the house whilst she was in hospital once and found 4’’ of composted vegetables in the fridge bottom drawer complete with worms somehow and a dead rat in her shed that must have died from the dirt. I just couldn’t comprehend how someone could be so selfish and expect someone else to sort things out for her each time?

By then I was running a full time very responsible job, managing staff and bringing up 2 children whilst my Husband was starting his own business and unable to help much – it was a difficult time trying to do everything properly and I had a member of staff who wanted my job and he made it clear that he would be better placed to do it watching my every move.

I had a small breakdown one morning very suddenly.

As someone who had always always coped – it was difficult to accept the failure of not coping.

I had 3 months off – unheard of for me (I only had 6 weeks off work total when expecting and my daughter was born, 3 months with the birth of my son) I subsequently left work with acknowledged grounds for constructive dismissal (which I ignored) and set up my own business and it’s been a huge success so something good came out of it.

One piece of advice I had and which I treasured always was when I explained to my Doctor about my past and how not coping wasn’t my thing – he said ‘’ you won’t change your Mother now you know’’ and I realised he was right – I couldn’t. Again it was a relief to speak to someone.

At 76 she was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukaemia. I took time off to take her to appointments etc. and she became stronger again. My Father died suddenly shortly afterwards and she was desolate despite having been divorced from him for over 15 years.

Whilst in hospital once she sat with her head down and refused to speak to my Brother and I for 10 minutes – eventually she said ‘’I’ve been a terrible Mother to you’’ it was the closest we came to an apology and it made me cry.

The Doctors gave her 2 years – her heart was weak – she had blood pressure, and the Leukaemia would weaken her eventually, and amazingly finally she gave up her Gin and Tonic.

She died 12 months later.

I can’t say I was really sad – it was the closing of a door and a moving on.

When I was younger it made me angry that other people had things so much easier than me and that they had no idea how much I had coped with to get anywhere and what I had achieved in my small life – why would they I hadn’t told them? I didn’t want pity.

What I did decide was that I wouldn’t let her continue to affect the rest of my life – she’d had 40 years of it and she wasn’t having the rest.

I have tried not to spoil and cosset my children too much (that would mean I was rebelling against her and she would still be winning then) so I’ve tried to be firm, fair and kind with them and I think they appreciate that as young adults now. I suppose I do get sad when I don’t think they appreciate just how much easier their lives are compared to how mine was – but then why should they suffer because I did?

I’m proud of what I achieved in adversity but I still get cross when I hear people doing bad things because of their upbringing – it’s not a valid excuse.

The one thing I can’t reconcile though is never feeling cared about or unconditionally loved. As a mother I will never know how she didn’t love me with the passion I feel for my children – it was all about her or them and for that I will never forgive her.

I wish there had been someone like NACOA for me.

Thanks for providing the forum for me to tell my story.

Julie

+- I feel like my story might be able to help some people relating to death and alcoholism (Anna)

I can’t believe I have discovered this website. When I was a teenager I dreamt of starting a website to help young children dealing with alcoholic parents. I always felt so alone and scared whilst being a part of an extremely loving family. I feel like my story might be able to help some people relating to death and alcoholism:

My mother was a closeted alcoholic ever since I can remember. She was loving and took care of us so I never thought it was a problem. My father passed away when I was 14. This left us with a mom who couldn’t really take care of us, yet no one knew. This is the hardest thing to share, but I found myself saying ‘you took the wrong parent’ even though I loved my mother so much.

Tragedy struck our family even harder when my mother got diagnosed with colon cancer four years later. No one ever told us but I knew that it was because of her drinking. My feelings no longer were feelings of resentment and hate for her drinking, I now felt terrible for any bad thought I had ever had about her. All I wanted was for her to live. To be there for us, she could do no wrong.

It has been almost 8 years since she has passed. I have been through a lot, but have learnt a lot of lessons along the way:

1) It’s ok to be mad at someone who has died!!

2) Even though alcoholism is a disease and that person might not be able to help themselves, others can help. It’s ok to be mad at others who didn’t help

3) Being angry and feeling pain is the only way to help anxiety. For the longest time I kept it all in, 8 years later anxiety hit me harder than at any point of my life. Feel the anger, the resentment, the unlove, it’s the only way to eventually let love in again.

4) Find an outlet. Yoga became my outlet and MY space. My place of true being.

I am just now finishing a Masters in Early Years Education and my dissertation was on yoga with young children. I am passionate about helping children who you might not know need help… like myself as a child. No one knew my suffering, my disconnect was described as daydreaming, and I had no place to go. If I had discovered yoga, I believe that I might have had a space to feel ok, to feel connected with myself.

Anna

+- Daddy’s little Girl: Having an Alcoholic as a father (Dora)

It took me years before I finally opened up about my Dad being an alcoholic. Some of my closest friends never knew this part of me because it hurt me too much to mention it. There is always a relentless bunch of individuals that want to convince you that you’re missing out on life by not drinking. After so many missed parties and social events, I realized I couldn’t avoid the situation forever, so I started opening up about it. As soon as the subject of alcohol came up, I would just confess my secret, hoping everyone would respect me if they understood. To my dismay, most people continued to encourage me to drink despite my indifference. They’d say, “Lighten up, my parent is an alcoholic too, so have a beer!” I would stare at them thinking, Now,how does that make any sense after what I just said?? When they’d tell me about their Mom or Dad becoming so intoxicated during family events and parties and starting fights and crying all over the place, I just shook my head in silence. They had no idea what an alcoholic was.
 
This is Wikipedia’s definition of alcoholism: A broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships, and social standing. It is medically considered a disease, specifically an addictive illness.
 
Now, after reading that, a lot of people might say, ‘Well, damn! I guess that makes me an alcoholic too!’ while that makes me laugh, I still don’t always agree. This definition is only the tip of the iceberg of a problem that continues to tear families and relationships apart, leaving emotional scars unable to heal. For a long time, I believed alcoholism didn’t affect me because I wasn’t the one drinking it. ‘It’s his problem, not mine’ I’d say. But deep down inside, I knew my life had been altered because of my Dad’s addiction.
 
I was in high school when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Those years are a blur to me because I tried so hard to block them out. I was raised as a Daddy’s girl, but during this hard time of his life, I can’t say that I was there for him. His alcoholism had spiraled so out of control that he had become a complete stranger to me. Every day, I’d enter the house to find him slouched on the living room sofa like a zombie; he’d probably been passed out for hours. I would quickly walk pass him and close my bedroom door, not re-emerging until dinnertime. To this day, I don’t reminisce about childhood T.V. shows, because I never watched T.V. The living room was Daddy’s sanctuary and I was afraid to be in it. To be honest, I was scared of him. I was scared to look him in the face to find a man that I didn’t recognize. I was scared of the pain I’d find in his eyes because he felt his little girl no longer loved him. Every day I always wondered when he was going to die. To avoid the pain, I pretended like he wasn’t sick. Only once I went to his chemo session; I waited outside. A few times, he tried to reach out to me, telling me how disgusting and cold the medicine was that they made him drink, how weak he was feeling, and about the monitor that they had surgically placed into his chest. I couldn’t bare it, so I looked the other way and closed my heart. Those years were probably the hardest for him because he lost his wife and his daughter. I would hear my parents arguing whenever he discovered my Mom had poured out his alcohol or hidden it from him because he had done something else crazier than the last time. I spent many years locked in my bedroom so I wouldn’t have to face the truth: my family had fallen apart. My older brother never visited. I think he hated us or was embarrassed to have us as a family. I started feeling shy around him whenever he forced himself to come visit for the holidays.  My mother started confessing all of the atrocities my Dad had done over time. My two other brothers seemed to accept the situation for what it was. I felt torn.
 
I could sit here for days and talk about the stories my Dad has created for us all. Some of them are hilarious; other ones are just plain stupid, while others are tragic. For so long, I tried to avoid being my Daddy’s daughter. When I was younger, I promised myself I’d never drink or date anyone else who drank alcohol, but I realized how impossibly difficult that is. My first love drank more than I wanted to admit and I couldn’t help but think of my Dad on numerous occasions. A few times, I’ve broken down and accepted drinks when they were offered to me just to see what the hype was about (It’s not as great as everyone makes it seem). But through everything, I’ve realized that I can’t keep running from my past. I can’t hold on to my Dad’s addiction and allow it to control my life or hold it against whomever I date.
 
The greatest thing I’ve absolved is that I am more like my Dad than any one else on this planet. Before his drinking took control, I had the best Dad any girl could ask for. He was so involved in my life that I still have more good memories of him than bad. Who I am today has everything to do with how he raised me as his little girl: he was the King of science projects and I was his little geeky princess. We would stay up for hours spending too much time on simple projects that teachers had assigned; many resulted in my teachers commenting that my completed work was a little too advanced for a 3rd grader and I had to do it again—by myself. My Dad pushed me to be the best and know everything. My passion for art, discovery, traveling, science, and just being plain weird and comfortable with myself, is all because of him. He’d challenge me daily: “Read this”, “Draw that!”,  “Tell me 3 ways to escape someone hurting you”, “Tell me the alphabet backwards”, “we’re not leaving until you answer this math problem correctly”, “which way is the light hitting this picture?”, “Do you know why the sky is actually blue?” Every day he had me spinning with knowledge and adventure. He’d take me to the park and show me how to fly kite, how to whistle loudly, how to train our dog, how to shoot a basketball…to this day, I can throw a football better than some boys. For my birthday, we spent an entire year building a dollhouse made up of over a thousand pieces of little wood. During the summer, he’d take me to museums just so we could walk around and I’d feel inspired. For the longest time, I wanted to be a geologist. Then an astronaut. He bought me every book, video, telescope, and rock that I ever wanted. Every time I call him, he gets a thrill out of teasing me about the giant rock collection that I’ve had since I was a little girl. “When are you going to come pick these things up? They’re taking up too much room in my closet!” “Daddy! Don’t touch my rocks!” I scream and he laughs, laughs, laughs… I graduated from University after receiving an athletic scholarship for four years. I broke several school records and left a small legacy before I was finished. I owe all of my accomplishments to him, for igniting my first passion to run when I was a little girl.
 
Now I’m living in Costa Rica and I can’t help but think about the man I left behind. It breaks my heart that I am not with him when I know how sad and sick he still is and it makes me question if I should return home. I ask myself how I got here in the first place, away from my family and loved ones, seeking adventure and growth in unpredictable ways. My family thinks I’m crazy—everyone BUT my Dad, that is. The same stories that make my Mom shriek and have panic attacks, make my Dad laugh and encourage me to keep chasing my dreams, because they were the same ones he had at one time. I can hear him smiling on the other end of the phone when I tell him about my crazy adventures abroad and the troubles I’ve landed myself in. We’re so alike in many ways and I know he just ‘gets’ me unlike any one else.
 

So what’s it like being the daughter of an alcoholic? Eventful, I can tell you that. But I wouldn’t trade him for any other man in the world. My Dad is my inspiration and I live my life because of him.  

+- My mother was an alcoholic for many, many years (Jessica)

My mother was an alcoholic for many, many years. I have never spoken to her about it and I don’t know whether she is still an alcoholic or not.

It is very painful to think back to my childhood. I found reading the experiences of other people on this site a huge support. My heart goes out to every person who has shared their story here. Will any alcoholic parent read these experiences and be brave enough to face the truth about their drinking and the damage and pain it causes to their children?

I am 49 and feel ashamed of my mother’s drinking. When I was a trainee barrister 20 years ago, one of the barristers in my chambers rang my home to speak to me. I was out and my mother answered the phone. The next day, in front of 2 other people, the barrister asked if my mother had had friends round the evening before. I said no. He asked if she had been on her own. Not realising why he was asking, I said yes, and he said, ‘oh, does she like a drink? Because she was so drunk she could hardly speak.’ I was mortified and humiliated. One of the other people kindly lightened the mood by saying that she liked to have a drink on her own herself.

My father left home when I was 8 and my mother brought up 4 children on her own. I admire her for that and feel unkind to make comments here about her drinking. But it caused me
a lot of suffering. It also caused my brothers and sisters a lot of suffering. I can only really talk here about the effect on me.

My mother used to leave glasses of ‘orange juice’ around the house, which would be discoloured brown. We would pick the glass up and sniff, and the orange juice would smell of whisky. I would sometimes look under her bed and there would be a bottle of whisky.

I remember Sunday lunch when she would lurch drunkenly in and out from the kitchen to the eating area, throwing insults and sneering comments, not engaging in conversation with us.

In the evenings she would lock herself in her room and then lurch out, drunk. She would react with erratic outbursts and rage, shouting and screaming and lashing out, hitting me. She would take out her frustrations like this.

There was no adult in the house. I remember someone else on this site saying the same thing. I feel deeply what I missed when I hear my wonderful, loving, calm, never-angry partner talking and listening to his teenage and twenty-something children.
As a child, I remember longing for the warmth and love and affection that I now have in my relationship with my partner.

My mother blamed us children for her miserable life. She blamed us for causing her depression.

But now that I am nearly 50 and childless, with no family of my own, I wonder, is it really so terrible to be a single mother with a good job and 4 lovely, intelligent, kind and caring children? Is that really such a terrible, unbearable situation to be in that you have to drown out reality with whisky? Do you really have to scream at your children about how awful they are and how miserable they make you?

It makes me realise that it really wasn’t my fault, because that is not a description of a life so terrible that it has to be drowned out with alcohol.

I can never stop sorting and tidying, constantly trying to create order. I was recently talking to my partner about how I have never been able to stop working, sorting and tidying, and to have fun instead. Then I read on this site that this is one of the traits of a child of an alcoholic.

I am struggling to achieve what I’m capable of. For over 10 years I could not speak to anyone, so I lived an isolated life. But I gradually learnt to make friends. I finally started my first loving relationship in my early forties, and I’m very lucky that after 7 years our beautiful relationship is still strong.
I’m struggling along at the bottom of my career, but now that I have achieved the loving relationship and friendships that I have always longed for, I’m going to focus on achieving a successful career.
It is hard to go through life struggling with a feeling of worthlessness and a feeling of being hated by people you meet.
I don’t drink, but I recently found out that my brother is an alcoholic. He is making all the same mistakes as our mother. He doesn’t admit that he is an alcoholic. He hides his vodka and gin in empty soft drink bottles. He thinks that he is in control and that his children won’t notice or be affected. He believes that the problems in his family are caused by his 7-yr old child. I spent a few weeks trying to talk to my brother and rationalise with him, but I found myself being crushed by the same defensive self-deceit and aggression that made discussion with my mother impossible. How sad to see his children growing up in the same violent, angry misery. How tragic to know that the little one cries that it’s all his fault. And how heart-breaking to feel the same helplessness as I watch another alcoholic destroying children’s lives. At least there is some hope as Children’s Services are involved, though I am fearful that they will be taken in by my brother’s manipulative arguments.

I really don’t understand why every alcoholic parent doesn’t go to Alcoholics Anonymous and give up drink for the sake of their children. It is something I will never, ever understand as long as I live. As someone else on this site said, it is as though the alcoholic loves gin and vodka more than their own children.
Jessica

+- Both my parents were alcoholics, although neither would admit it (Oliver)

In response to the Radio 4 appeal, I just gave a donation via Just Giving, and wanted to send a message so here goes …

Both my parents were alcoholics, although neither would admit it.  In fact, their drink problem hid another – that both had suffered childhood rape, my mother by her father, my father at his public school, which I only found out about when I was 39.  And the fact of neither having had empathetic support, and the denial and suppression of problems, led to me being brought up in a dysfunctional family, older sibling bullying, the iniquities of Freudian psychiatry, ECT, near suicide, prison, a cult – and me and all my 3 siblings being divorced at least once.  Hopefully my small donation may help someone not experience the loneliness, mental and emotional pains I continue, now aged 65, to go through.

Best wishes,

Oliver

Uncategorized

+- My name is Mandeep. I am 38-years-old and my father was an alcoholic (Mandeep)

My earliest memories were of my father drinking. I remember one of the dreams I had when I was five. I had three daddies. ‘Nice daddy’, ‘funny daddy’ who was just slightly drunk, and then of course ‘nasty daddy’. That is what it was like. You never had any stability, any security, any normality.

Dad was an intelligent man but also an incredibly intimidating and violent man. He and my mother had an arranged marriage in 1975 and divorce was never an option, even when she was battered and bruised, even when she had black eyes and wore sunglasses during the day, even when she was hospitalised after he threw a plate of steaming hot food over her stomach as he didn’t like the way she had cooked it, even when he smashed her head open with a wine bottle and the blood was smeared over every single wall in the house, even when he kicked her in the stomach when she was 8 months pregnant.

No, divorce was not an option because she did not want to bring shame to her family.

If ever we dared to get in the way we became the targets. God knows how many times neighbours called the police. God only knows what the social services thought of us.

I never had any friends. I never went to a birthday party. Nobody invited us anywhere. I couldn’t ride a bike. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t do any of the normal things that kids do. I thought that I was a freak. My father became more controlling, almost psychopathic, as we got older, not allowing us any contact with the outside world apart from school. We were not allowed any freedom at all. I don’t know if that was the alcohol talking or whether that was just his personality.

I don’t know how but he managed to get a car, despite being unemployed. He would drive it with us in the back. He was completely off his face. We had no seatbelts and were terrified. He never got caught.

However, because my father was an intelligent man my school never found out. He would always wear a suit and tie and be ever so charming to our teachers. He would chew cardamom pods too, a trick that many Asians use to cover up the smell of alcohol on their breath.

Luckily his children were intelligent too. I excelled at my school work and became a straight A student. However, my father made me give up my education when I was 16 so that I could get a job. He took my wages and spent them on drink. However, I didn’t give up. I did my A-levels through distance learning. I secretly went back to my school, having confided in my form tutor, who would give me AA leaflets and also let me borrow A-level text books. I would sneak them under my coat and then secretly read them at home so that I could pass my exams.

I hated him. Every night I would pray to god that he would die.

A year before my father’s death when I was 17 he visited the doctor who told him he had to stop drinking otherwise he would die. My father denied that he drank, as he always did. He came home and just said ‘So what? Everyone has to die one day.’ A year later I sat by his bedside in the intensive care unit as he succumbed to alcoholic liver disease.

I felt that a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Unfortunately it took my family a while to adapt to life without him, to change their ways. My mother had lived under his shadow for so long. He had left us penniless and she was scared.

I asked her if I could go to university the following year and she said no. However, I made the toughest decision of my life because I knew it was the right thing to do. I continued working and saved up a load of cash. I passed my A-levels, got my university place, packed two suitcases, called a friend and left home. My mother was devastated but after three days we were talking again and we are best friends now.

I thought that life was ok but it was only last year that I realised it wasn’t really. I have always felt different, always felt left out, always felt lonely and depressed. I couldn’t understand why. I have a wonderful job, two beautiful children, the world is mine for the taking, but I still feel sad a lot of the time. It was only when I did research that I realised what I feel is normal. The legacy of a parent’s drinking does affect you for the rest of your life. However, just because you have a parent who drinks it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. It really doesn’t matter where you’re from. You are as special as everyone else on this planet and it is where you are heading to that counts. Life will get better, I promise.

Mandeep

Feeling like you want to get away from it and being unable to live your own life

+- Someone dies of cancer, it’s a tragedy, someone dies of alcoholism it’s an embarrassment (Kate)

I am now in my 40s but have felt like a mature adult for most of my life.  Sometimes as children we sat at the top of the stairs in silence until our parents’ arguments had stopped and we could go to sleep. As a teenager I used to count the number of bottles of wine, gin and beer they got through in a week at home – and lecture them.  As an adult I tried to learn from my sister and distance myself emotionally.

Of both my parents, he was a melancholy alcoholic, not physically abusive, so emotional blackmail was the worst we really ever suffered from him. She was emotionally erratic, unpredictable, and would swing into black moods or verbally violent outbursts quickly. We learnt to keep our heads down. As their relationship openly failed in my teenage years, I was called on as confidante to each of them, and tried to be supportive, taking on emotional responsibility I didn’t have the experience to deal with. For a few years I developed eating disorders and self-harmed.

My father, a high-achieving, intelligent, company executive, with a multitude of talents died of total organ failure brought on by alcohol abuse 10 years ago. My mother, also with a successful career behind her, divorced him a year before he died, leaving my sister and me to care for him at home in the final throes of his illness. We both lived and worked about an hour away, so it was a difficult time, which we shared in shifts. The worst thing was the isolation; the phone never rang. Someone dies of cancer, it’s a tragedy, someone dies of alcoholism it’s an embarrassment.

My mother put herself into an expensive private rehab clinic 3 years after my dad died and contacted us on arrival.  We had both minimized contact with her because of the verbal and emotional abuse we suffered from her following my father’s death. She was in a humiliated physical state then, yet four weeks later we saw her as herself for the first time in our whole lives – she was a kind and thoughtful person. But her sobriety only lasted 6 weeks. Gradually it slipped back into the bottle of wine plus a day, the casual drink driving, the angry abusive phone calls: “I love/hate you”,  “I’m proud of you” / “ What the hell are you doing with your life? Just get on with it!”, “You owe me”, ‘I gave up ten years of my life for you”.

I wanted to save at least one of my parents, and asked a cognitive therapist I knew to help my mother. He warned me he had cured heroin addicts, but never alcoholics; he couldn’t get her to accept responsibility for her actions.  She has also been to AA, but got bored of listening to everyone else’s stories. She has had one-to-one counseling, but decided the psychiatrist was ‘mad’. She hides her drinking: vodka watered down in water bottles, white wine in tea cups. In public, to normalize her behavior, she will carefully match you drink for drink. This is harder to deal with than my father who openly acknowledged his weakness, and asked us to accept it.

I no longer bother questioning my mother about her drinking, nor do the doctors. Last year she came to visit me, but made herself so sick she was vomiting up blood and soiling herself in the street. I drove her the 2 hours back home, called the doctors and she admitted she needed to stop drinking. Three days later, everything was denied. The cause of her ailments are always due to something else.

This year she has collapsed in the street, fallen down the stairs, and perforated an ulcer.  The hospital patched her up, detoxed her with Librium. Two days after she was released, I visited her again, and the tremors were back, as was the smell on her breath.  I cleaned out the fridge, made sure she had something to eat and left.

This year there will be more ‘unusual health problems’, and every year after. And I will eventually bury her, just like I buried my father. I will call her every week to monitor her state, and make sure she isn’t making herself destitute with opportunistic drinking partners. I will listen to the rambling monologue, tell her any news briefly, which she will forget again, ask about again, and react disproportionately to and audibly pour another drink. I will tell her I love her, hang up, and spend the next few hours trying to get control of my thoughts again.

We spent ten years watching my father die, after 20 years of watching them fight. While we went through the motions of getting on with our lives, we still spent most of our time together talking about them and looking over our shoulders for the next crisis. Now I am waiting for my mother to die, and I no longer feel guilty about hoping it will be sooner rather than later. It would be kinder to us all.

My sister had the opportunity to work overseas.  I actively encouraged her to leave – so she could finally have a chance at her own life, find a partner, and have a family. Thankfully she has.

I don’t think either of us ever really knew what a normal loving relationship looked like, had the trust in others or, quite reasonably, had the confidence we could trust our instincts in identifying someone we could depend on. Our emotional expectations of others are often wildly out; I am certainly an optimistic cynic, hoping for the best and expecting the worst in everyone.  What I know now is, however we’ve turned out, it’s not our fault. I just wish it had been different.

Kate

Feeling frightened or anxious and hearing parents argue or fight

+- Making sense of my Mum’s alcoholism (Kate)

I recently came across Nacoa and found that reading other people’s personal experiences really helped me to make sense of my Mum’s alcoholism and how that has shaped me as a person.

My very first memory is of finding an empty vodka bottle in my Mum’s ottoman. I must have been about three years old. I took it and showed it to my Dad, who took it from me and sent me downstairs. A blazing row between my parents ensued. I guess that was the first time I learnt that talking about alcohol in our house was ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I realised my Mum was an alcoholic. She didn’t get blind drunk to the point of falling over or being physically ill, she was more of a functioning alcoholic who drank little and often all day. It didn’t stop the mood swings though.

The afternoons were the worse, when she’d go off for a nap, then wake up a few hours later and snarl and snap at me. I was lazy if I didn’t do the washing up or ironing – if I did then I wasn’t doing it right. I’d escape to my bedroom, but then she’d follow me and ask what I was doing for seemingly no reason at all.

She worked as a cleaner in the evenings when my Dad got home from work. That’s when we’d scour the house for her stash of empty bottles. I remember we filled three bin bags once. He presented them to her on a few occasions, asked her to explain herself like it was a surprise to him to find them (denial is a big thing for my Dad, even now). All Mum did though was stand there with a stupid expression on her face, like a child that’s been caught doing something bad. She wouldn’t speak, just stand there looking so pathetic that it made me want to slap her.

When I was eighteen I met a man who I would go on to have a three year relationship with. He was older than me and a heroin addict. The mental and emotional trauma he put me through, not to mention the debt he got me into at such a young age, was appalling. No-one understood why I stuck by him for so long, not even me until recently when I learned about co-dependency and the characteristics of ACOA’s.

Ten years on, and nine years into a new relationship with the most wonderful man I’ve ever met, I had my first panic attack. I was 31 years old and it came out of nowhere. I was browsing the internet for something to wear for our upcoming wedding, but couldn’t find anything that seemed quite right. Then, out of the blue, I was engulfed by a crippling sense of panic and suddenly didn’t know where I was, who I was, what day or time it was. I thought I was going crazy. It scared me so much that I decided I should speak to a counsellor. It was the best thing I ever did.

I’ve always known that growing up with an alcoholic mother has affected me, but talking to my counsellor and working things through has enabled me to see how my behaviour in my adult life stems from my experiences as a child. As ACOA’s we have so much emotion and grief bottled up for so long that it only takes a tiny, seemingly insignificant sight, smell or sound to dislodge the lid on those emotions and they all come spilling out and overwhelm us.

Talking about my childhood, approaching memories that are painful or scary, has been difficult to say the least, but four months into counselling and so many things are making sense to me I wish I’d have done it sooner. Reading other people’s experiences on Nacoa has also been a tremendous help. You can’t underestimate the sense of relief you feel being able to relate to others after years of handling things all on your own.

I still see my Mum, mainly on weekends. She doesn’t come to my house, I have to make the effort to go and see her. She’s in her early seventies now, unsteady on her feet, permanently shaking, has problems with her memory and mood, drinks tea through a straw and eats her food with a fork clutched in both hands. We still don’t talk about it though, at least not in front of her. I think it will always be the elephant in the room but maybe one day I’ll feel strong enough to tackle it, or maybe by then it will be too late. Either way I’m starting to understand that none of it is my fault, and all I can concentrate on is getting myself better.

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